UNDER-FIRE councillors who voted to close Plas Madoc Leisure Centre have said it was one of the hardest political decisions they have ever faced.
At a meeting of Wrexham Council’s executive board last week, members voted in favour of closing the Acrefair centre by a seven to two majority.
The closure plan is one of the most contentious decisions taken by the authority in recent years and was met with opposition from more than 2,000 consultation respondents, according to a report to last week’s meeting.
Now several of the members who supported the move have spoken out for the first time about the difficulty they found in doing so.
Cllr Malcolm King said: “I love Plas Madoc Leisure Centre.
“I am gutted to find myself in the position where I feel I have no choice but to support its closure, based on the evidence in front of us. The last few months have been very difficult to choose between cuts that no right-minded person would want to support.
“Unfortunately doing nothing is not an option and of course it is only going to get worse over the next few years, with much more painful decisions to come.
“As a Wrexham councillor for 25 years I have tried to help improve Wrexham for all of us.
“Destroying and dismantling things we have built together is a horrible, deeply upsetting process.
“Other people, far away from Wrexham are responsible for this mess but we have to pick up the pieces.”
Wrexham’s budget plans for the next financial year includes savings targets of more than £13 million, with £45 million of cuts projected for the next five years.
Cllr Hugh Jones, who voted for the closure, said the need to make savings had left the council with “very hard choices to make”:
He added: “None of us went into politics to close things like leisure centres and libraries, but we are having to do both. In relation to Plas Madoc, nobody has actually come forward with a viable scheme to help pay for it year on year.
“These are hard choices and difficult decisions, I think it must be one of the most difficult decisions I have had to make since I entered politics. This round of cuts as a whole has meant we have had to make difficult decisions, the worst I have seen.”
Cllr Bob Dutton said saving Plas Madoc would have meant cuts affecting vulnerable people: “We have to find £45m of savings from somewhere.
“If we didn’t find the money from leisure we would have had to find them from adult or social services and that could have a serious effect on the care of vulnerable people.
“It was a tough decision. I am very concerned that this particular centre is having to close unless we can find a way around it.
“We are interested in any proposal that will help find a way around the closure but the opposition have not come forward with any proposals that offer a solution to the problem.”
The 40-year-old centre will close in March but could be saved if a community social enterprise agrees to take over the running of the facility by June 30.
Councillors from the Wrexham Independent Group who disagree with the result of the executive board vote have called in the decision to close the centre.
The decision will go before a scrutiny committee within seven days and then go back before the executive board for the decision to be taken again.
The executive board’s decision had been due to go before the full council for approval next week.
Cllr Mark Pritchard declined to comment and the other councillors who voted to close the centre were unavailable for comment at the time of going to press.