As a planning appeal spills into the public realm, the deputy-chairman of Castletown Commissioners Jerry Ludford-Brooks is due to move a motion at the local authority’s meeting next month to call on the government to introduce an all island pool levy. 

The motion reads: Now that government and Tynwald have agreed to the provisions of the Swimming Pool Orders that only apply to some regions of the island, that the Regional Swimming Pool rate charge can be increased up to 8p in the £ in the following years, and that the charge only applied to the regional Local Authorities, that the Commissioners write to the Chief Minister to urgently request that Government now considered the introduction at an early date of an “all island household swimming pool charge” to replace the present rate system charge and that such charge be included in the annual rates bill applicable to each household.’

Mr Lurford-Brooks, speaking to Gef, pointed to an issue of a lack of fairness in the current system whereby residents in the east, such as Onchan, Braddan and Douglas, do not pay towards community pools in their rates because of the location of the NSC. 

Unlike residents in these areas, islanders living in the north, west and south in-effect pay twice towards swimming facilities, both through their rates which contribute to regional boards and through taxes which go to fund the NSC from central government. 

Mr Lurford-Brooks said: ‘Onchan, Douglas and Braddan pay nothing for swimming pools at all and there should be an overall swimming pool levy. I have had contact with Douglas and they said they don’t pay because they provided the land for the NSC.

‘This is ridiculous because they also got rid of Summerland at that time because of the upkeep of it and Douglas still gets the rates from the NSC. I think it’s totally unfair that the [regional] local authorities have to spend all of this money on it and yet three of the biggest local authorities pay nothing at all.’

Mr Lurford-Brooks said that while he hopes the review into the island’s swimming pools will include a look at the current financing situation, he ‘won’t hold his breath’. 

He added: ‘I sent a statement to all members before it went to  Tynwald and they all voted for it. I don’t believe MHKs are looking after constituents, especially in the south.’

The deputy-chairman also said that he has no issues ‘in principle’ with the proposed pool at King WIlliam’s College, but that it cannot come at the cost of the community losing its own pool, which he said should be built as part of the new school development. 

‘I haven’t got a problem really with the pool at King Bill’s, whether it happens or not remains to be seen, but you need a community pool,’ he said.

‘Nobody could ever say that a pool at King WIlliam’s College could be a community pool because it will be run by a charity and they will need to make a profit if possible or at least break even whereas at the moment the community pools have a deficiency which is covered by government.

‘I can’t see it ever working, but that is up to the board who are doing King Bill’s to sort out. But what will really annoy me is if the government puts public money into the pool at King Bill’s to the detriment of the one at Castletown.’

In a recent Tynwald question, from Speaker Juan Watterson, which asked about whether public money was earmarked for the scheme, Treasury Minister Dr Alex Allinson said there is ‘no money included in the Pink Book for a swimming pool at King Williams College’.

However, the minister went on to say: ‘It is difficult to state if Tynwald approval would be required for any such application. It would depend on the nature of the application and the vires or other powers proposed to be used to authorise.’