8. To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on how it will work with local authorities to ensure access to local services, including leisure facilities, for local communities. (S6O-02123)
The Scottish Government believes that everyone should have access to local services, particularly leisure facilities that help to support the physical and mental health of the nation.
We will work in partnership with local government to ensure that the people of Scotland continue to receive high-quality public services. We understand the challenging financial circumstances that local authorities are facing largely because of the cost of living crisis, so we have increased the resources that are available to local government by more than £793 million in 2023-24. It is, however, for locally elected representatives to make decisions on how best to deliver services in their communities.
The minister will be aware that Dundee has been without a local swimming pool since the Olympia shut down for repair in 2021. The facility was only opened in 2013 and yet taxpayers are now footing a £6 million repair bill. With so much disruption and money at stake, it is just common sense to hold an independent inquiry, so it is bizarre that the SNP-led council refuses to do that. Does the minister agree that Dundee residents deserve answers that only an independent inquiry can provide?
I am well aware of the circumstances in Dundee and the challenges that it is facing. The council is working hard to make sure that people continue to have access to swimming facilities and is particularly focusing on making sure that children can learn to swim using the network of swimming pools in Dundee schools and the leisure facility in Lochee.
On the point about scrutiny and an independent inquiry, the matter has rightly been scrutinised by the council’s scrutiny committee, which is led by opposition councillors. The convener of that committee is the leader of the Labour group and the two deputy conveners are the leaders of the Liberal Democrat group and the Conservative group. If we are talking about independent scrutiny, I cannot see how an opposition-led committee has not managed to do that.
That said, I absolutely get that people are frustrated and I am hopeful that it will not be too long before the Olympia reopens.