OPPOSITION councillors are set to “call in” for scrutiny a decision by a council cabinet to temporarily close several leisure centres and swimming pools over the winter.

People from Herefordshire have been signing a petition against the temporary three-month closure of the pool in Presteigne, with Kington Cricket Club saying the move was "awful news".

Several councillors at the Powys County Council cabinet meeting on Tuesday, December 13 were furious with the decision and how it had been managed by the Liberal Democrat/Labour administration.

The closures of the leisure centres in Llanfyllin, Llanfair Caereinion and Presteigne, and pools in Llanidloes, Rhayader and Builth Wells, are needed due to the spike in energy costs, bosses say.

Freedom Leisure is predicting that during the 2022/2023 financial year it will spend £287,000 over the £2.5 million contract it has with the council.

The centre in Presteigne is next to John Beddoes School and is currently open seven days a week, and offers a wide range of activities, including swimming, a soft play area, gym, squash league, badminton, numerous fitness classes including spinning and yoga.

Coun Beverley Baynham who represents Presteigne where East Radnor leisure centre is located also said that almost 350 children are currently signed up for swimming lessons.

"In addition to extra-curricular swimming lessons that parents pay for, there are no less than six primary schools and a special educational needs school that use the centre for swimming lessons in addition to John Beddoes who use it daily," she said.

"We are not talking about some little used small backwater; this is a popular well-used centre."

She added: "Let’s close Presteigne - the border town out on limb that no one will care about. Wrong. We have a fantastic community, and we care about our very few and far between services."

Chairman of the learning and skills, scrutiny committee, Coun Gwynfor Thomas said: “You have a political choice of whether you wish to fund Freedom Leisure £287,000.

“The impact assessment is not fit for purpose, it’s not an urgent decision as talks have been going on for some time.

“I already have sufficient numbers to call this in, and I will do so, so that it has a proper scrutiny hearing.

“This is not how we should be treating the people of Powys."

Coun  Baynham also said:  “No consultations, no discussions just a done deal.

“How can a decision be taken at a cabinet meeting this morning when papers were not published until 6.06pm last night.

Hereford Times: Cllr Beverley BaynhamCllr Beverley Baynham

“This decision is being pushed through with not even 24 hours’ notice and no time for us to prepare and have a discussion.”

She added that the documents did not explain how the decision had been reached.

“This is an ill-thought-out decision. Why can’t the savings be shared across the board?" said Coun Baynham.

Conservative group leader, Coun Aled Davies said: “This is a truly appalling way to run a council, to present this report at the very last minute.

“With central government support we maintained leisure services during Covid-19 (lockdowns), to blame the UK Government is simply unfair.”

He added that there had been “nothing” on the issues facing Freedom Leisure in the confidential financial briefing given to councillors following their full council meeting last Thursday, December 8.

Coun Davies said: “Then you bounce this on to us yesterday and the impact assessment only arrived 10 minutes before the meeting started.

“There are clearly serious issues whether this is legal.”

Head of legal and democratic services, Clive Pinney said: “The process we have adopted is an appropriate one there is no need to have a consultation on a temporary closure.

“I can confirm that the agenda went out at the appropriate time.

Hereford Times: East Radnor Leisure Centre in PresteigneEast Radnor Leisure Centre in Presteigne

“Because of the emergency nature of this it was unfortunate that the papers were delayed.

“As far as I’m aware there is no predetermination amongst cabinet who I’m sure they will confirm have kept an open mind and listened to everything that was said this morning.”

He added that he could send councillors a copy of the relevant part of the constitution that explains how the call-in process works.