SAC in the dock over pool
VINDICATED! That's the word Girvan Community Council chairman Alec Clark used to describe the swimming pool campaign after last week's ruling by the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman's officer that there is a case to answer over its closure.
Now South Ayrshire Council faces a formal investigation after hundreds of Carrick residents complained to the Ombudsman that the local authority had misused its powers.
The complainants had accused Council Leader Hugh Hunter's County Buildings administration of taking the decision to shut the amenity as a cost-cutting measure, not on Health and Safety grounds as it claimed.
If the allegations against South Ayrshire are found proven, it could be censured for maladministration or service failure.
After receiving a letter on behalf of the complaints investigators Fiona Glasgow and Kate Taylor, Mr Clark said: "It is a triumph of the democratic rights of the people who have striven for so long."
And the man who has been spearheading the public protests over the pool decision since early this year said: "I am delighted that the Ombudsman's office have recognised there is a case to answer.
"South Ayrshire Council now have to prove they closed it on Health and Safety grounds and not as a cost-saving measure.
"In fact the closure decision was contrary to the good health of the people of Girvan and a hammer blow to the tourism industry.
"The council members also have a case to answer and it will be interesting to see how they defend themselves."
After being contacted about the Ombudsman's statement last week, Mr Hunter said: "We welcome all measures which will assist South Ayrshire Council improve its consultation mechanisms.
"We made clear in the council's recently approved 'Improvement Agenda' the high priority that we attach to communication and community engagement.
"We are sure that the work of the Ombudsman in reviewing specific decisions will assist us in making improvements in the way that we communicate and engage with local communities.
"We look forward to working closely in a positive and constructive manner with the Ombudsman."
Labour MSP Cathy Jamieson, who has been campaigning on behalf of South Carrick's pool users over the issue, said on Monday: "This is a victory for common sense.
"The council took the decision to close the pool against the clear wishes of local people. The way the decision was taken and the subsequent actions in stripping out key components from the pool raised serious concerns that the council had been planning the closure for some time.
"This understandably led to local outrage especially as they were still taking money for swimming lessons right up to the week of the closure. A full investigation will ensure that the council is properly held to account.
"Meanwhile they should take no further action on demolition and apologise to the local community for ignoring their wishes.
"The people of Girvan deserve better treatment and the council must put in place plans to reinstate the pool or provide a new facility."
Meanwhile, Mr Hunter has also been facing criticism over another communications breakdown by his senior officers - over the decision to close the road between Girvan and Pinwherry for five this week without consulting villagers or other interested parties, including bus and haulage companies, beforehand.
In an email to Pinwherry and Pinmore Community Council secretary Claire Pirrie, he said: "I know that Mr Mike Newall, Head of Planning and Enterprise, has been in correspondence with you and that measures are being taken to deal with the immediate problems that you have highlighted and perhaps even more importantly your e-mail has prompted a review of how we consult with communities about proposed road closures."
In a further email on the subject, Ms Jamieson told him: "As I know the area, I am well acquainted with the alternative route to Barrhill via Lendalfoot and Colmonell, but people who do not regularly use this route would not necessarily know these roads. I have also had residents expressing concern about the suitability of these roads for heavy traffic."
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Weather for Girvan
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 29 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 6 C to 10 C
Wind Speed: 38 mph
Wind direction: North west