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Council criticised over future of Aberfan Community Centre and Redhouse

08 Mar 2024 5 minute read
The Redhouse and Aberfan Community Centre.

Emily Price

The GMB trade union has hit out at Merthyr Tydfil Council over the uncertainty of the future of Aberfan Community Centre and the Redhouse creative hub.

The community centre in Aberfan was built for residents of the village following the disaster which killed 116 children in 1966.

On Thursday (March 7) an image circulated on social media showing a sign displayed in the leisure centre’s foyer stating it would close from April 1.

The sign displayed in Aberfan’s Community Centre

There was outcry from the south Wales community and local politicians expressed confusion and shock over the news which they say they had no knowledge of.

The centre is currently run by the Wellbeing Merthyr Trust which was formed in 2015 to manage the leisure and cultural facilities on behalf of Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council.

The leisure centre, which boasts a pool, fitness suites, large hall and a cafe was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1973.

It was built alongside a memorial garden using donations which poured in from around the world following the Aberfan Disaster which saw a landslide of coal waste crash into Pantglas Junior School killing 144 people.

Just a short walk from the community centre is the graveyard where the victims of the disaster were buried.

‘Confident’

Amid confusing messaging published to social media last night, the council claimed it was “confident” that services at the leisure centre would continue as an “alternative provider” had been appointed.

However, on Friday (March 8) GMB Wales and South West posted a thread to X, stating that they had been told all leisure sites in the area were being returned to the council and “farmed out” to a private provider.

The union went on to say that Aberfan Community Centre and Merthyr Tydfil’s Redhouse would not be part of the deal.

The Redhouse – also known as the Old Town Hall – is a Grade II* listed building in Merthyr Tydfil which was transformed just a few years ago into arts a creative industries centre.

On X, GMB said: “This situation is completely unacceptable. In a meeting with the council this week they confirmed to us that all MLT sites will be returned to the council before being farmed out to a private provider EXCEPT the Redhouse and Aberfan leisure centre.

“At the meeting we asked the council about the future of the Aberfan leisure and they refused to commit to the site remaining open after April 1st.

“The leisure trust have assured us that they are prepared to hand the building back before April 1st.

“While the council scramble to get a plan together, our members are the ones who have to live with this uncertainty.

“On top of that they still haven’t received their pay uplift from last April – something that was promised to them over 10 years ago.

“Our members have had enough of being walked all over, it’s time for us to act.”

‘Concern’

MP for Merthyr Tydfil Gerald Jones said he was concerned about the future of leisure facilities across the whole of the the county borough.

In a statement, he said: “I’m incredibly concerned about any proposals that would see Aberfan Leisure Centre close.

“I’m already working closely with GMB trade union about the future of leisure services across the whole of Merthyr Tydfil and, in light of this news, I’ve sought urgent assurances from council bosses.

“Merthyr Tydfil Council must act to secure the future of Aberfan Leisure Centre for its customers and staff.”

We reached out to Merthyr Tydfil Council for clarity on whether the centre would remain open after April 1.

Despite GMB’s statement, the council claimed the sign placed in the centre’s foyer was “fake”.

A spokesperson said: “We are working positively and productively with Wellbeing Merthyr, as we’ve stated previously, to ensure we maintain services at all centres.”

On the sign in the foyer, the spokesperson said: “That’s a question for Wellbeing Merthyr. MTCBC was not aware of these signs going up.

“It is a matter for the leisure trust to investigate where these fake signs have come from.”

Councillor Geraint Thomas, Leader of Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council, said: “I am appalled that someone would put signs up spreading malicious rumours of a closure and causing so much concern for the staff and community of Aberfan, and it is a matter for Wellbeing Merthyr to investigate where these fake signs have come from.

“It’s extremely unfortunate that people are directing this issue at the council when council officers are working positively and productively with the Wellbeing Merthyr to ensure we maintain services at all centres.

“For clarity, the leisure provider that has been successful in their bid to operate leisure services within Merthyr Tydfil is NOT private, but a registered charity and ‘not for profit’ organisation with a wealth of knowledge and experience in the industry.

“We stand with the staff and community of Aberfan.”

We invited the Wellbeing Trust to comment but they did not respond.


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