COUNCIL chiefs in North Lanarkshire have been accused of abandoning the area’s youngsters after rubber-stamping a series of swingeing cuts that will close 39 community and leisure facilities.

A meeting earlier today pushed through the controversial proposals that will impact swimming pools, libraries, town halls and neighbourhood hubs as the local authority looks to save £64million over the next three years.

Furious parents have blasted decision-makers for how the cuts have been implemented after a group of schoolchildren penned heartfelt letters to councillors in a last-ditch bid to force a u-turn.

The closures were decided after two votes, which ended 13-12 and 13-11.

It means the Aquatec in Motherwell, Sir Matt Busby Leisure Centre in Bellshill, John Smith pool in Airdrie and Shotts leisure centre join Kilsyth pool plus seven libraries, 20 community centres, Lochview and Palacerigg golf courses and Airdrie’s @home youth centre in shutting over the next two years.

Bellshill Sharks Amateur Swimming Club are one of the organisations which have battled to halt the cull. Its members regularly use the Sir Matt Busby, one of the now-condemned facilities, and say its loss leaves their future uncertain.

They launched a petition calling for the centre – and others like it – to be ringfenced and say that an amendment put to the administration today by opposition councillors would have led to a full public consultation and a stay of execution - and should have been supported.

Sharks secretary Marie Maling says that the loss of the pool will drive talented youngsters away from the sport.

Marie, 42, whose daughter Rebecca, 12, is also part of the Scotland squad, added: “We are devastated. The meeting on Thursday afternoon was a shambles, it was clear that the decision had already been made and they had no intention of taking anything the kids - or anyone else put forward - into consideration. It was a done deal.

Glasgow Times: Marie Maling and her daughter RebeccaMarie Maling and her daughter Rebecca (Image: Robert Perry)

Glasgow Times: Sharks protestSharks protest (Image: Newsquest)

“The young people of North Lanarkshire have been abandoned by those in power. These cuts are going to have a devastating long-term impact on our communities and their viability and vibrancy. For the Sharks, we will need to find a new home, but where? All the facilities round about us are being shut down too."

She added: “The people who compiled this report that went before councillors were asked to tick a box saying whether its recommendations, if approved and acted on, would have a negative impact on young people. They said it wouldn’t, yet that just isn’t true, generation after generation will be disadvantaged by the closure of these places.

“The kids feel left down and a number of them decided they wanted to be heard so they wrote letters and sent cards to their local councillors ahead of Thursday's meeting. They even shot a video that they sent on. They wanted the people who are elected to represent them to know how important these centres are, but that effort has just been thrown back in their faces.”

Jim Logue, leader of North Lanarkshire Council, says that the local authority was backed into ‘unpalatable decisions’.

Glasgow Times: Jim LogueJim Logue (Image: Newsquest)

He added: “We have done everything possible to protect services, but with £64m to save over the next three years, we are now in the realm of making decisions that no councillor would wish to take.”

A council spokesperson added: “Engagement and consultations will take place with users of facilities to identify suitable alternative venues for activities and bookings, where possible.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said: “Work is ongoing with COSLA to establish a new fiscal framework for councils. Despite a decade of UK Government austerity, local government revenue funding in Scotland is higher in real terms than it was in 2013-2014.”