Public meeting called to highlight risk to Handsworth Leisure Centre

Handsworth Leisure Centre, Handsworth Park, Birmingham.

It’s no architectural gem but Handsworth Leisure Centre, which opened in 1984 and occupies one corner of Handsworth Park, is one of our busiest local amenities.

Even on a wet weekday in May its car park is three-quarters full and there is a steady stream of youngsters – many of them unemployed – passing through its doors. For those who can’t afford private gym membership it’s a place to hang out, keep fit and stay out of trouble. For primary-age children it’s also a vital resource. In term-time lines of them led by teachers are a familiar sight on Grove Lane as they snake their way to their swimming lessons in the Centre’s heated pool.

But like most similar amenities Handsworth Leisure Centre is funded from the public purse. And with government cuts to local authority funding, facilities like Handsworth Leisure Centre are at risk. At best this may mean cuts to existing services such as fewer classes or shorter opening times; at worst it may mean privatisation, which means the Centre being sold to a commercial company with the long-term loss of the facility to the community and inevitable uncertainty for users and staff.

To discuss the current situation a local campaign group, Handsworth Against the Cuts, has called a Public Meeting to be held in the Dance Studio at the Centre at 2.00pm this Saturday, 1 June. Among the speakers will be Caroline Johnson from the trade union UNISON, which represents the Centre’s staff, and Cllr Mahmood Hussain, one of three Labour councillors (the others are Waseem Zaffar and Hendrina Quinnen) representing the Lozells & East Handsworth ward on Birmingham City Council.

The Centre is situated in the Lozells & East Handsworth Ward, which is part of Birmingham Perry Barr parliamentary constituency represented by Khalid Mahmood MP. Cllr Hussain is also Chair of the Perry Barr District Committee, which controls the purse strings for many local council-funded services.