Council officials under fire for “high-handed and cavalier” attitude

COUNCIL officials were charged with having an attitude problem this week, following a lack of consultation over the closure of another Stonehaven facility.

The comments came during a discussion at Tuesday night’s meeting of the Stonehaven and District Community Council about the temporary closure of the indoor pool at the town’s leisure centre, which will shut over the summer holidays from July 4 to August 16. Seven other pools in the Aberdeenshire Council region have had their opening times reduced, as part of a bid by the local authority to save £80,000.

Local councillors said that although general budget cuts had been agreed at a full meeting of the council in November, the finer details of how these would be implemented have never been discussed.

The announcement that the indoor pool will close comes hot on the heels of the closure of the town’s Tolbooth Museum which was shut and emptied of its artefacts without any prior consultation in March.

Volunteers in Stonehaven have since banded together to reclaim some of the displays and are aiming to have the museum open again later this month.

But the reaction to the temporary loss of another facility without any consultation by officials has certainly been less than favourable.

Stonehaven and Lower Deeside councillor Peter Bellarby said: “Not only has there been a lack of consultation with the community council, but also with councillors - this was suddenly sprung upon us without any prior warning and without any discussion at all.

“I have taken this up, and I have to say that I am disappointed by it. We have to do something about this.”

Fellow ward councillor Wendy Agnew said: “I’m actually incandescent with rage, for the reason that we councillors are meant to be running the show and it appears to me that we are their employers and we are not being told anything.

“I’m furious - they have to be told we are the employers. We did not know until it had been done.”

Community council secretary Alistair Lawrie said: “We are all their employers. Incandescent doesn’t even begin to describe how I’m feeling.”

He added that council officials were adopting a “high-handed and cavalier” attitude towards decisions, and said: “I think it is shocking that our officials behave in this way.”

Several members then asked what could be done to hold council officials to account for their actions.

It is expected that the Open Air Pool, which opens on May 28, will soak up the over-spill of customers from the indoor pool, although several members of the community council said they had been approached by early morning swimmers worried they would no longer be catered for.

The Open Air Pool opens from 10am - 7.30pm, Monday to Friday and 10am to 6pm at weekends, during peak season, while the indoor pool opened at 6.30am until 10pm most days.

A spokeswoman for Aberdeenshire Council said: “We are currently looking at the feasibility of offering some early morning swimming sessions and potentially some extensions into the evening. However we will not be in a position to confirm this until the end of May.”

She also confirmed that Active Aberdeenshire card holders who live in Stonehaven and the Mearns would be able to use their cards to access the outdoor pool for the duration of the closure, but cardholders from elsewhere would not be permitted.

Chairman of the community council David Fleming said he had real concerns about how this would affect the number of season tickets the pool sold, and the amount of money it would make this year.

Stonehaven and Lower Deeside councillor Mike Sullivan said: “It seems that what has happened is that the details have been scrambled, which is most unfortunate, but the principle of this is very sound.”