THE frailty of a ruling Coalition group’s grip on power at a council has been exposed as a controversial swimming pool plan saw the same number of elected members vote for the move as against it.

As a vote calling for further consideration of pumping a third of Richmondshire District Council’s annual council tax income into Richmond’s swimming pool was tied 12-12, chairman Councillor Clive World was forced to use his casting vote to pass the plan.

The ruling Richmondshire Together group of ten Independents and three Liberal Democrats came close to its first defeat since taking power in 2019 after Conservative, Green and Independent councillors questioned whether the authority could afford spending £1.4m on overhauling the pool.

The meeting had heard the authority’s leader Councillor Angie Dale describe the plan to make some environmental and building improvements as “an absolutely amazing scheme - an investment where it needs to be spent”.

Other elements of the scheme included the council agree to give Richmondshire Leisure Trust a further 20-year lease to run the pool and continuing providing grants to support the trust, which in recent years have cost taxpayers £248,000 annually.

Councillor Kevin Foster questioned whether the authority had investigated whether alternative sources of funding, such as from the National Lottery, could be secured for the works.

The leader of the Conservative group, Councillor Yvonne Peacock warned the authority was set to agree a five-year funding agreement despite “having no idea what it is going to be” as well as a 20-year lease without knowing the details. She said: “We are handing all this over without any comeback.”

Members of the ruling group dismissed suggestions the upgrade was being rushed, highlighting that little had been invested in the pool for nearly 30 years, and said they had “absolute faith” in the council’s senior managers to negotiate the best possible outcome with the trust.

They added with local government reorganisation looming, the authority needed to safeguard the future of the pool for residents.

The council’s deputy leader, Councillor Helen Grant said: “I am very much of the opinion that we need to get this on as quickly as we possibly can.”