Hopes lie with Scottish Government for new pool

ANY HOPES Forfar is in line for a new swimming pool could be dead in the water after a frank update on Angus Council’s capital budget plan for the next five years.

Speaking to the Dispatch on Monday, councillor Iain Gaul, leader of the administration, put on record the tight budget restraints facing the SNP administration and listed a number of inevitable casualties.

In an unprecedented move, the leader talked through the projects which are on course to be completed, but outlined those which would not progress due to a shortfall of £45.264 million.

Whilst a replacement swimming pool for the current facility at the foot of the Vennel, which is well over 100 years old, is not listed separately, the only hope for a new pool lies with the Scottish Government and its criteria for new sports and recreational facilities for the town.

Mr Gaul explained some £89.570 million was needed for projected projects in the capital plan, which included almost £19 million of legally committed expenditure.

Almost £10 million was needed for statutory obligations as well as almost £12 million council support for the Brechin High School replacement and some £10.565 million for the Arbroath Schools project.

Over £21 million is needed for core maintenance projects, including core roads maintenance works.

Mr Gaul spoke of his hopes that new sports facilities for Forfar - including a new swimming pool - could be forthcoming but he could not make false promises to the people of the town.

He said: “This is a new open and honest Angus Council. Basically we are facing a shortfall right now of £45.264 million in capital projects for the next five years. That is worse than we expected. Rather than hide this from the public I think we should be up-front.”

He spoke of the “adverse effect” of money in the past being “parachuted in” for major capital projects, as was the case with the new sports and swimming pool complex in Montrose.

He continued: “We are going to have to find money for the sports and recreational facilities and a Forfar Academy Community Campus. Right now we don’t have the money to do it. We only have £9 million for the sports and recreational facilities for Forfar for a project costed at £12 million - we are struggling to get hold of that money but it’s my job to apply for further funding.

“Forfar was top of the list for a new swimming pool but about five years ago money was “parachuted in” for the sports centre in Montrose, incorporating a new pool.

“Our argument then was that it would ruin the future capital plan. At the time we were accused of ‘scaremongering by the SNP’ and all sorts of party political posturing, but I’m afraid that particular bird has now come home to roost.

“We have got the promise of funding from the Scottish Government for a new school, with further funding from Sports Scotland, but there are strings attached. The best case scenario is we are going to get a new school with a new pool, the worst case scenario is we get a new school.”