Dundee council leader caves to pressure as he seeks independent Olympia probe

Dundee City Council leader John Alexander has backed calls for an independent inquiry into failures at the Olympia Leisure Centre.

Mr Alexander said he had changed his mind on an inquiry due to the latest closure, which came just weeks after the pools reopened following £6 million in repair work.

Explaining he no longer has confidence in the reassurances given by professionals and outside experts, the SNP councillor said what had transpired in recent weeks was “especially egregious”.

The U-turn comes after repeated calls by The Courier, local residents and opposition politicians for a probe into what went wrong.

The SNP administration at Dundee City Council has long resisted calls for such a probe into the £35 million facility, which has been plagued with problems since it opened in 2013.

Pools at the Olympia have been forced to close again. Image: Alan Richardson

But there were fresh calls for an investigation after the leisure pool closed again in February, weeks after it reopened for the first time in years following the multi-million pound repair bill.

More problems have been identified after the most recent closure, and bosses have been unable to provide a timescale for reopening.

Mr Alexander said it was this which had prompted his decision to call for an investigation.

Council leader ‘struggling to contain anger’ over Olympia debacle

He said was “struggling to contain his anger” as he seeks updates on when the pool will reopen.

“We are clear that recent events mean there’s a lack of confidence in the reassurances that we’ve previously received from professionals and the external expertise brought in, and in relation to the systems installed.

“Taxpayers are entitled to unequivocal reassurance that works have and will address all issues, for the long term and that once reopened, Olympia will not see another unplanned closure.

“It is clear that now is the time to undertake an independent investigation into the issues that culminated in the recent closure of the leisure pool.

“I also want the council to receive clear actions/changes as a result of any investigation, that set things in motion to ensure there’s no repeat.

“This intolerable situation cannot continue,” he said.

Dundee council leader John Alexander
Dundee City Council leader John Alexander. Image: Steve MacDougall/ DC Thomson.

He added: “The reality is, things have materially changed, with new issues apparently unrelated to the wider works rearing their head, including the chemical dosing system and metalwork, and they require new light shone upon them.

“We want to know, just as you do, what has happened in recent weeks to result in another closure and why, after £6 million the leisure pool remains closed.”

It is understood Mr Alexander will table a motion at the next council meeting which will mandate officers to make arrangements for the investigation to take place.

This will include identifying the correct person to carry out the review, normally a senior lawyer.

Reacting to Mr Alexander’s call, north east MSP Michael Marra said: “The council should have agreed to this inquiry long ago when I and many others began calling for it.

North East MSP Michael Marra. Image: Steve Brown/DC Thomson

He added: “The latest chapter in this debacle may have been avoided if they had listened.

“It is the continued incompetence of the SNP administration in running the council that has made this inquiry inevitable.

“The leader of the council is now saying he has lost faith in the advice he has been given by officers – he is very late to see the glaringly obvious.

“People watching from the outside lost faith in the council’s management of this debacle years ago. That includes the council leader who is accountable to the public for all of this.”

The Scottish Labour MSP added: “We know that a member of his SNP council group was raising the issue of maintenance and building failures in Olympia years ago. It is inconceivable that John Alexander was not aware of these concerns.

“The budgets and the committee reports on all of this have his name printed on them at the bottom. His group had no interest in holding officers to account when the issue was brought before the Scrutiny Committee. They all sat on their hands and kept their mouths firmly shut.”

Urgent concerns at Olympia
Dundee Olympia was closed for two years for repairs. Image: Kim Cessford/DC Thomson

Mr Alexander said he had previously rejected proposals for an investigation out of a belief it would only reveal what was already known.

He told The Courier: “An independent examination into the Olympia would, it was assumed at the time, merely tell us what was already known and what the external pool technicians and engineers had set out in the reports and tendering documents, agreed unanimously through council.

“Whilst it would also tell us what we thought was already known, it would cost taxpayers tens of thousands of pounds in the process.

“Spending taxpayers’ money to find out what we already knew didn’t sit well, for understandable reasons.”

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