A few weeks ago we sent out a letter to all candidates for the Sparkbrook Ward in the forthcoming local elections, to see what their views are on the future of Moseley Road Baths. We informed them that responses would be posted online. We have, despite requesting a response by 30th April received just two out of a possible five replies – from the Labour Party and Green Party candidates.
As you are a prospective Councillor for the Sparkbrook Ward, the Friends of Moseley Road Baths and our supporters are anxious to hear your position regarding one of the ward’s most important public buildings, Moseley Road Baths. You will be aware that it stands in the middle of Balsall Heath and has served the community for over a century. However, major investment and renovation is needed to maintain this Grade II* listed building, and to ensure that it continues to operate as a swimming facility.
We would like to know your answers to the following questions:
- Are you committed to the future of swimming at Moseley Road Baths?
- Are you committed to reopening the Gala Pool as a swimming pool?
- Are you committed to maintaining the building and facilities under public ownership?
- Are you committed to maintaining the building and facilities under public management?
- Do you have any ideas as to how the building could be developed to meet the needs of the local community?
Response from Tony Kennedy – Labour Party Candidate
Thank you for your letter regarding Moseley Road Baths, I am happy to set out my thoughts, though please forgive me if my response does not follow the exact questions.
Firstly, I am totally committed to the complete renewal of all the existing and historic facilities of the baths. We have the last (and only) opportunity to retain, preserve and enhance this gem of a building and facility of local and national importance. I understand and value the utility of the Baths for local people, the many other users, and the passionate attachment to such a unique and beautiful building.
For many years I swam there at lunchtime and regularly took my (now grown) daughters for a ‘real’ swim; (amongst many other experiences there, I enjoyed a splendid underwater performance by the Birmingham Electronic Arts and Sound (BEAST) group). I understand and value the unique qualities of the Baths as a local facility, the last example of a public bathing facility, a historic and critically, a working building in a unique and important part of Birmingham.
Secondly, I am an experienced politician with good insights into political and financial processes and priorities; it is absolutely clear that the Baths are just one of many currently competing priorities in Birmingham and under the present CON/LIBDEM Coalition control will receive minimal ‘political maintenance’ support with the imminent prospect of closure when budget cuts dig deeper.
Thirdly, the only prospect of saving, preserving and enhancing the Baths is as a flagship facility as a flagship of a major ‘Moseley Road’ regeneration programme, creating a vibrant local centre with major external funding and linking to the City Centre Regeneration Zone and the A342 ‘string of pearls’ from Digbeth to Moseley road and Moseley/Kings Heath – this would also mean creating a major attraction of the local centre and the other presently dilapidated listed and significant buildings: Library, School of Arts, Dance Centre, Arts & Crafts building (The Make-It centre), Tram-shed etc.
I have led and won bids for major regeneration resources (Sparkbrook/Sparkhill SRB & URBAN £60 million, Aston Pride £54 million) and chaired the Sparkbrook & Sparkhill Regeneration Board and the East Birmingham & North Solihull Regeneration Board.
In short, we need a serious, strategic framework to justify major investment in the Baths and to demonstrate their role in the strategic development of the area and the city. We need a strategy which is ambitious, realistic, achievable, shared and demonstrably of value to a vibrant city.
Lastly, we need to change the nature of the debate and develop a wider vision for a regenerated locality with historic buildings, sustainable communities and a local centre integrated with nearby buildings and services: health, police, retail shops, library, community, faith and leisure facilities.
I propose creating a local centre steering group with the Friends of Moseley Road Baths at its heart. Every opportunity should be pursued (lottery etc.) for the Baths; however, major development will only be possible by demonstrating the catalytic effect of the development for the wider area.
In 2003/4 I chaired the ‘Local Centres’ regeneration strategy group under the then Labour-controlled council, Moseley Road was the top priority for a series of renewed local centres across the city- this was binned by the CONDEM coalition council when they took control, as was every other Labour Party policy.
Labour will win control of the Council in 2012, whilst the sitting Leader will become Interim Mayor in November this year with executive powers until the Mayoral election in 2013, so HE will have authority to make and set the budget (it would require 2/3rds of the full city council to overturn this. The CONDEMs have so miss-managed Birmingham City Council’s budget that currently 66% of the total Birmingham Council Tax revenue goes to service the debt accumulated on their pet projects (Harborne Baths, Sutton Coldfield Town Hall, ‘Central’ Library, etc.)
It does seem to me probable that the national coalition will open the purse-strings in a couple of years as and when the national economy picks up (they will sell the Government shares in the banks, for example, at a profit.) There are also opportunities to bid for lottery, European and other funds.
Given these circumstances, the Mayor needs to be convinced of the case for supporting a thriving local centre at Moseley Road and I am happy to help build and make this case and promote an ambitious scheme.
So, this is the context for the Baths. We need a ‘reality-check’ to take account of financial and political realities, build a compelling case for the future, and campaign hard to win the resources to achieve the shared vision. This campaign will not be won overnight and will take considerable communal effort. I pledge to work to these ends.
As for your questions, I support whatever the consensus of the community decides.
Labour Party Candidate
Sparkbrook Ward Election, 2011
Response from Charles Alldrick – Green Party Candidate (typed from handwritten letter)
Thank you for your letter on 20th Aprill[sic] 2011. My answers are the following.
- I am committed to the fact all local children should be abel[sic] to swimming free of charge at Mosely[sic] Road Bath, which should remain open.
- The Gala Pool should reopen to benefit the public.
- Mosley[sic] Road Bath should owned and maintained by the city, however Friends of Mosely[sic] Road Bath should have controll[sic] over the runing[sic] for the interest of the public.
- Undrer[sic] Public Health Mosely[sic] Road Bath the only public bath-wash left in Birmingham, hence Friends of Mosley[sic] Road Bath should be more recognised by the local authority and residence[sic].
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have further questions.