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The Rushden Echo, 13th June, 1913, transcribed by Gill Hollis
Swimming Baths for Rushden
Proposal Defeated by the Urban Council
A Question of Finances - Can The Town Afford It Just Now?
At the meeting of the Rushden Urban Council on Wednesday the Clerk read a letter in support of the provision of public swimming baths from the Rushden Co-operative Society, the Rushden branch of the Boot Operatives’ Union, the Rushden and District Trades and Labour Council, the Rushden Friendly Society Council, the Rushden Amalgamated Clubs, &c.

Mr. Bazeley moved that the Surveyor be instructed to get out an estimate for the provision of an open-air swimming bath on the station-road site, near the Ambulance headquarters. He said : This would not involve a great expenditure, and, if a loan for 30 years could be obtained, the repayment of principal and interest would be a very small matter indeed. With the receipts from the County Education Authority and a charge of 1d. for the use of the baths there would be a revenue, so that it would be scarcely any burden to the town. We shall be met with the cry that we are ruining the town and that the irresponsible Labour Party do not care what they spend, but it is time that these baths were provided. We of

The Labour Party

have a mandate for the provision of these baths, we have had it on our programme for years, and we have pressed this matter from time to time, but not so strenuously as we should have done but for the financial position of the town at that time. It is the water scheme that has delayed the provision of public swimming baths. It is no good our critics crying out about the expenditure, because the expenditure for a town of this sort has been very small. The main part of it has been for Water Board expenses. At the present time we have to contribute to the Water Board about 2s. out of our 5s. rate. That does not leave very much for the other things in the town. I think that the working classes have been very patient indeed, because they have felt for years that this was a very urgent matter. Now comes the most favourable opportunity that has presented itself. The County Education Committee have written to the School Managers asking that facilities should be given for teaching the scholars swimming.

Public Opinion

is strongly in favour of these baths, and the burden would be so small that it would scarcely be felt at all. Mr. Bazeley referred to swimming baths at Chesham made at a total cost of £450 and which were very effective.

Mr. Spencer seconded and said : The more central the position the better it will be in the end. If you went to the extremes of the town you would kill the scheme. While you might thus save a little at the beginning it would be detrimental in the long run. There is a very great need in the town for these baths. The river is very far away, and there is no suitable place there for bathing. I have never yet come across a safe bathing place there for myself, let alone risking the lives of boys.

The Ven. A. Kitchin : There can be no two opinions as to the desirability of swimming baths where they can be had and no two opinions as to the desirability of children being taught swimming were it is possible, but I feel obliged to say here in Council, as I said at the meeting of the Sanitary Committee, that I cannot help feeling that the request upon the Council to provide a swimming bath at the present time is a

Most Unreasonable

one, and that the time for making the request is inopportune. Further, I think it is a matter to be much regretted that the Rushden Education Committee, knowing, as all the members must have known, the financial condition of the town, should have put forward this matter for our consideration, with the hope, I suppose, that we should adopt it at the present time. It cannot be said, I think, that the Council is doing nothing for the town. The estimates for the coming year show that some £12,000 has just been borrowed for the purposes of the sewage disposal scheme, and that, in response to a demand put forward by Mr. Bazeley and his friends – and a not unreasonable demand – the Council have also borrowed £2,500 for a recreation ground, and have before them the necessity of borrowing a still further amount to complete the work of laying out the ground. The annual charges on those amounts are very considerable – a very large sum added to the payments hitherto made on loans. In the Statement of Accounts we find that the loans standing against the town at the present time amount to £37,911, in addition to the share that we are responsible for on the Water Board loan, standing at the present time at £99,458. If we turn to these sums in the estimates for the year we are now passing through, we find that no less than £2,850 is to be paid in repayment of loans and interest, in addition to £2,329 for Water Board charges, making a total of £5,179 out of an

Estimated Expenditure

of £11,763, leaving, after the charges for loans and Water Board have been met, a sum of £6,584 for all purposes. Out of that £6,584 must be taken certain fixed charges which it is not in our power in any way to deal with. Salaries and the Free Library altogether come to £944, and, if we take that sum away, it means that £5,640 is available, but that does not represent the whole, because, if we also take away the main roads, for which we receive the greater amount from the County Council - £1,338 – we have left only £4,302 for all other expenses connected with the upkeep and maintenance of the town. It really comes to this, therefore, that at the present time, in loans and water board charges, we are paying only a fraction under 3/0 out of the 5/0 rate. Practically, out of the 5/0 rate, 3/0, all but a fraction, is hypothecated to meet our just and urgent liabilities. It will be seen, therefore, that the amount which we have to deal with for the purposes of all the necessary work and the upkeep of the town is very small indeed. Therefore, there are only two ways in which this proposal, it seems to me, can be dealt with. There is

No Money Available

out of the current income for this year. The sum estimated as being the balance at the end of the year amounts to only £631, and there are certain charges which we have to deal with to-day which will have to come out of that. Thus, there are only two ways in which this matter of the baths can be dealt with; one is by levying a special rate to meet the cost – and that is not a course, I think, which many here would be content to adopt – and the other is to borrow, to add to our indebtedness by way of a loan. It is true Mr. Bazeley tells us the loan would only be a small one, but we know that this is only the first step in a very much larger scheme, and there can, I think, be no doubt that ultimately we should be landed in a very considerable expense. The bath might or might not pay – probably not. The income for the open-air swimming bath provided by the County Education Authority is infinitesimal – from £15 to £20 a year. There would be a certain income from the people using the bath, but the expenses would be considerable, and certainly there would have to be an attendant engaged. The schoolmasters, I suppose, would be responsible for the children bathing, but somebody would have to be responsible for the others. It is quite as

Easy To Get Drowned

in the baths as in the River Nene, and there would, therefore, undoubtedly be considerable expense. I think personally it would pay its expenses, but I think it is unreasonable to put forward this scheme at the present time because we are spending a very large sum upon necessary matters in the town and also because the margin we have for the upkeep of the town is so very narrow that it is quite inadvisable that it should be further narrowed by another loan. If adopting this proposition means an addition to the rates, an increase beyond the 5/- which we have budgeted for, I should feel bound to oppose it on the ground that some of us were returned to this Council on the distinct understanding that the rates were not to be increased, and therefore, much as I appreciate the strength of the memorials which have been put in, and much as I sympathise with the desire of many in the town to have swimming baths – a desire perfectly reasonable – I feel that the time is an inopportune one, and I shall feel obliged to vote against the proposal.

Mr. Skinner: I think it would be suicidal for us to attempt to provide these baths at the present time. I think three-fourths of the Council were returned distinctly on the understanding that there should be

No Increase in the Rates

Mr. Perkins: I should have no hesitation in voting for the proposition, which only commits us to preparing an estimate. I do not think any member of the Council need think he is violating his election pledges by voting for this proposition. It is very advisable to have the baths, but it would be very unwise to try and provide them out of the current rates. The loans for general purposes, apart from the Water Board, are £38,000, which is being repaid at the rate of £2,850 a year, so that about 14 years would clear us of them, and some of us expect to live a little longer than that.

The Clerk: There is the interest as well.

Mr. Perkins: These figures are certainly very alarming, especially the Water Board accounts, but there is this point – Could not the swimming bath be made almost to pay its way? We have very great assistance from the County Education Authority. I think we should have a great many people who would go in for swimming, far more than now go down to the river. It would be wiser to wait and see what the annual charge would be for the repayment of the loan and to see whether the possible takings would something like approach the cost, but it would be too late for this year, and perhaps by some economies you might keep within the

Magical 5/- in the £

I think it would be wise to have the figures before us and then we could consider it carefully. At present we do not know the cost. We must remember that if you are teaching children to swim you immediately have a largely increased swimming population, for the experience of other places is that the children do not give up swimming after they leave school. The young folks in this town have plenty of pennies to spend, and I think a reasonable revenue could be looked for. Of course, I cannot pledge myself to vote for the baths if the figures come out excessively, but it would be wise, I think, to accept Mr. Bazeley’s proposition and then consider the question when the estimate is prepared.

Mr. Claridge: I can go as far as Mr. Perkins suggests, that we should ask the Surveyor to prepare a scheme, but I do not feel that I could commit myself to a scheme which would cost £2,000 or £3,000. I am committed like the rest, to see that

The Rates

do not exceed 5s. in the £. I have for some time advocated a swimming bath. Rushden is a place where a swimming bath is as necessary as any place in the country. If Mr. Madin says we can provide a swimming bath for £300 or £400 or £500, I would rather pay an additional rate than have a loan. If the baths could be provided at a moderate outlay I feel possibly I could support it.

Mr. Knight: I quite concur in what the Rector has said in regard to swimming baths, and the finances of the town. We have most of us pledged ourselves to economy, and we should oppose at the first meeting almost of the new Council committing ourselves to fresh expenditure. No one would be better pleased to see baths than I should be. As the memorialists point out, we have got public buildings of which any town might be proud. But if you are going to get baths which cost only £400 these memorialists would be among the first to object to it. You cannot make these baths for the public to use at a cost of £400. The

Health of the Town

is very good now. The death rate stands about the lowest of any town or village in the county, and we have no complaints about epidemics. With the expenditure we have on hand it would be suicidal at this meeting, almost the first in the life of the Council, to enter upon further expenditure. No one on the Council is more anxious for baths than I am, but we must clear off some of the other things first. We shall perhaps soon be getting some benefit from the water we sell. Let us wait and get baths that we shall not be ashamed of. I shall vote against going any further this year, with the sewage and recreation ground schemes on hand.

Mr. Wilmott : I am exactly of the opinion of Mr. Knight and the Rector. There is not room to add another penny on the expenses for the year. If a loan drops in I shall be one of the first to vote for the baths.

Mr. Hyde : We do not want to put up anything we should be ashamed of, and it is almost impossible to put up baths for anything like £400, and therefore I shall oppose it.

Mr. Bazeley replied to the discussion.

By seven votes to five the proposition was defeated.

Note: A swimming pool was not built for another 16 years - it opened in 1929.

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