Southern MHK Tim Glover has called for Julie Edge, Minister for Education, Sports and Culture, to resign.

In a debate about the Southern Swimming Pool in the House of Keys this week, Mr Glover said that there is a complete lack of trust in her and her department, amongst the population in the south of the island, the southern swimming pool board, and the southern local authorities.

But Ms Edge said she would not resign for following ‘due process’.

It comes after her department recommended to close the Southern Swimming Pool, before making a U-turn on the decision.

The recommendation was one of a number outlined in a recently published report on regional sports hubs.

The Department for Education, Sports and Culture (DESC) said the decision was purely on financial grounds, with the report having said that the closure of the pool would save £434,000 a year.

But in a meeting last week between MHKs, MLCs, and Commissioners, Speaker of the House, Juan Watterson, presented a ‘survival plan’ for the pool.

This was based on the subvention staying at the same level as previous years, and using data from the Pool’s budget projections.

It was agreed by the Local Authority members that they would broadly support the survival plan, which would keep the pool running, until the new facility is constructed as part of the Castle Rushen High School plans.

In a statement on the matter in the House of Keys this week, Julie Edge said: ‘There has been a proposal put forward to the government, which directly conflicts with the increased deficit and subvention forecast provided by the Southern pool board and contained within the published report.

‘The proposal indicates that no additional subvention is required over and above that which is already in provision for the southern pool board.

MHK portraits - Julie Edge
Julie Edge MHK (Dave Kneale)

‘On the basis of the proposed financial plan provided the department can confirm therefore, that it will continue to provide the already approved £434,000 of financial support.’

In a statement issued this week, the Southern Swimming Pool Board said that it did not request additional funding from the DESC, all it ever wanted was the usual annual subvention.

Ms Edge added: ‘The events of the last week now require government to undertake a thorough analysis and examination of the subvention bids from all regional pools and in the meantime, I can confirm that the existing subvention arrangements will remain in place for a further year.

‘But I must make it clear to everyone that the department has been tasked with adhering strictly to its budget, and that financial discipline must be applied.

‘Honourable members will be fully aware that our educational budget is constantly challenged and I am sure you will appreciate the increased cost pressures in delivering direct education into our schools and the UCM.’

But questions were asked of the figures used in the report.

Mr Glover asked why Ms Edge’s department had asked the Southern Pool Board to produce a budget based on the pool opening seven days a week when the facility had been operating for some time at just over five days a week.

Rushen MHK Michelle Haywood called the report flawed.

Ms Edge said that no U-turn had been done by her department.

She said: ‘The pools presented in November the figures that they required to continue operating in 2024/2025, and those are the figures that have been utilised in the report.

‘We will be meeting with the individual pool boards and we are going to undertake thorough analysis and examination of the subvention bids from all regional pool boards and I think that is the responsible thing to do’, she added.

Ms Edge confirmed that plans for Castle Rushen High School do include a new six-lane pool.

The intention is to move at pace, with the expected completion date being 2029/2030, according to Ms Edge.

But even in the meeting that she held on January 10, this year with the Southern Swimming Pool Board, she was not able to confirm whether there would be a swimming pool in the Castle Rushen Masterplan.

A spokesperson for the Board said: ‘Following publication of the CRHS Masterplan in November 2023, the Board obtained written confirmation from DESC that no decision had been made over a replacement pool.

‘Indeed, in the meeting on 10 January 2024, Minister Edge confirmed that the pool was not in the CRHS Masterplan as funding was unavailable.

‘She explained that the Plan was a vision which had the potential to contain a pool.’

Ms Edge added: ‘There has been a leaked letter’, and added ‘sadly the consequences of that are playing out in here today.’

But the southern pool board spokesperson said: ‘At the meeting on January 10 2024 with DESC, DESC instructed the Board to inform staff that day of DESC’s recommendation to close the pool.

‘This was done verbally with email confirmation.

‘Any stress and anxiety was caused by DESC’s recommendation and not by a leaked letter.’

Asked on whether Human Resources support has been provided, Ms Edge said: ‘I can confirm that my department offered HR support to the southern swimming pool board. We said we would come back and speak to the Office of Human Resources and see if they would be available to support them.’

The southern pool board said: ‘At the meeting with DESC (January 10), the Board was offered HR support for staff. To date, none has been forthcoming despite a follow up request.’