Councillors who pulled the plug on funding for a struggling hydrotherapy pool have been criticised by its board after they awarded more than quarter of a million pounds to Elgin’s ice rink.
At a meeting this week, members of Moray Council decided to contribute at least £251,000 towards improvements to safeguard the Moray Leisure Centre rink’s future for the next two decades.
However, campaigners for Moray Hydrotherapy Pool in Forres, whose £20,000 annual funding allocation was severed in February, have called the local authority’s priorities into question.
Chairman of the pool’s board of trustees Chris Combe said: “We have no problem with the ice rink receiving the money, but we get a bit upset when we hear about that amount of cash going there when we couldn’t even get £20,000 from the council.
“It’s a bit galling, the ice rink is a place for people to enjoy themselves and the hydrotherapy pool is a place for people to keep their health.”
The council’s children’s and young people’s services committee opted to cease funding for the pool after learning it was losing £41,000 per year.
Forres councillor Anne Skene, who chairs the committee, insisted members were right to refuse a request to extend the annual subsidy.
She said: “These are two separate issues – the hydrotherapy pool is a private enterprise that the council kindly decided to support if it made a loss during its first three years in operation.
“Moray Leisure Centre and its ice rink are arm’s length organisations the council opted to back financially from 1993 until at least 2018.
“It was an incredibly difficult decision to stop funding of the pool but we have to cut budgets and we can’t support failing businesses.”
Without the council’s subsidy, the hydrotherapy pool’s board is appealing for a fundraising expert to help the venue generate enough cash to stay afloat.
Mr Combe said: “We’re hoping someone with a background in marketing could help us out by attracting some significant donations.
“We will stage our own fundraising events too, but we’re trying to get £20,000 every year, and while user numbers have increased lately and people are keen to help, we need someone with relevant experience to make sure we can reach that amount.”
Last week the pool’s board held a public meeting where around 20 members of the public offered suggestions on how to generate funds.