Falkirk Council: Review of why report on concerns over Bo'ness Rec pool was ignored for five years

A review is to try to determine the facts over how a Falkirk Council report from 2019 – which seemed to highlight major concerns about the dangerous state of Bo’ness Recreation Centre – was overlooked.
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The issue was raised at Falkirk Council today (Wednesday) by Independent councillor Brian McCabe, who said he was very concerned to hear about a report, written five years ago, which highlighted safety fears about the condition of Bo’ness Recreation Centre’s swimming pool.

The report was written when the centre was managed by Falkirk Community Trust and it was discovered this year by council officers who had not been aware of its existence.

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The 2019 report stated: “In view of the hazard to the public and the increased risk caused by the weakened corner of the structure, it is my opinion that the swimming pool should be closed and drained as soon as possible.”

People protest at planned closure of Bo'ness Recreation Centre. Pic: Alan MurrayPeople protest at planned closure of Bo'ness Recreation Centre. Pic: Alan Murray
People protest at planned closure of Bo'ness Recreation Centre. Pic: Alan Murray

Director of Place, Malcolm Bennie, told members he shared concerns such a major report could have been overlooked and said he had referred the matter to the council’s internal audit team to look into the circumstances.

“I’m as interested as you are to find out what happened,” he told councillors.

At the meeting, Councillor McCabe called for council officers to undertake a full audit of all of properties that had previously been managed by Falkirk Community Trust, in case similar problems had been overlooked.

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But the SNP administration said the council has recently undertaken condition reports on all of its properties as part of its ongoing strategic property review and across other major buildings.

The SNP group’s deputy leader, Councillor Paul Garner, said these surveys were already identifying issues and a further audit was not required.

Mr McCabe was reminded by Provost Robert Bissett he could not revisit the decision to close Bo’ness Rec, which was made by councillors in February.

But the Denny and Banknock councillor said while he accepted that, in his opinion members had not been given the full facts to make the decision.

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Mr Bennie, said he agreed there was something “concerning about the Bo’ness Recreation Centre” and that was why he had asked for an internal fact-finding exercise.

But he said the request for the audit Mr McCabe was making was unnecessary as the council had already undertaken substantial condition survey reports.

A new audit, he said, “would not make our buildings any safer than they are now”.

The director said it was important to note the most recent condition survey for the Bo’ness Rec had identified the same concerns presented in the 2019 report.

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“That surely evidences that the condition survey process is effective in highlighting problems with the building,” he said.

Mr Bennie added it was important for councillors not to pre-judge what has happened.

“It’s really important that we wait for the fact-finding exercise to finish to identify what the problem was to find the solution,” he said.

Independent Bo’ness councillor Ann Ritchie said she was supporting the call for an audit as she was “really worried that there are other issues due to us not maintaining our facilities”.

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Councillor Ritchie also supported her colleague Laura Murtagh’s bid to find a compromise, although this did not succeed.

Mrs Ritchie said: “The people of Bo’ness and Blackness need answers. All our communities need to know why this has happened to make sure it doesn’t happen in any other ward.”

The SNP leader of the council, Councillor Cecil Meiklejohn, commended the officers who had come across the information for bringing it to the attention of elected members and said they should now allow the internal audit process to be followed.

The call for a full audit got just five votes, with the Labour group abstaining and the Conservatives supporting the SNP position.