Mass protests in Blackburn, Lancashire, have forced a halt to plans to close the largest local leisure centre and a raft of community centres.
It came after a protest of more than 500 people, and another of 200 which crammed into the council chamber to lobby against the cuts.
Celia Allen, who helped set up the Save Shadsworth Leisure Centre campaign, spoke to Socialist Worker.
She said, “My family use the leisure centre five or six times a week. There’s judo, karate, a swimming club. It’s a really well used leisure centre, surrounded by three or four council estates, in quite a deprived area.”
The cuts would have hit the leisure centre and 16 community centres. Libraries and a theatre were also threatened.
“We got a petition and got 6,000 names and set up a Facebook group,” said Celia. “But were told that the petition only counts as one complaint! We saw that the petition on its own wasn’t going to work.”
But after they organised the protest, the council voted to halt the closure won by 32 votes to 21.
Celia explains, “The council was surprised by our campaign and the response we got.
“Councillors don’t want the pressure. The Labour councillors are on our side, though they were a bit slow at the beginning.”
The fight isn’t over. The council’s executive committee will vote on the closures at the meeting on 12 August.
Another protest is planned. As Celia said, “They thought we’d go quietly. But if you don’t say anything they’ll just close whatever they want.”
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