Letter: Discriminatory practice at Turkish Baths

The entrance to the Harrogate Turkish baths.
The entrance to the Harrogate Turkish baths.

Talk about adding insult to injury. The sheer gall of Coun Stanley Lumley (Advertiser, September 8) in claiming that the reinstatement of men-only bathing sessions at Harrogate’s Turkish Baths adds “another string to the bow” for Harrogate Council’s spa-related services is quite breathtaking.

Unless I’m guilty of a grave case of mistaken identity, is this not the same Coun Lumley who, along with Harrogate Council’s Chief Executive, has spent the last 12 months or more steadfastly ignoring almost every single question I have put to them concerning the discriminatory decision to axe all men-only bathing sessions in December 2011?

Perhaps Coun Lumley needs reminding that Harrogate Council could have had this additional string to its bow for the last five years if his predecessor as Cabinet Member for Culture and Sport hadn’t made questionable allegations of “inappropriate behaviour” at the men-only sessions.

The council later played down those allegations, insisting its decision was taken “entirely on financial grounds”.

Coun Lumley would now have us to believe that this recent volte-face by the council is due to a customer survey suggesting there that there is suddenly sufficient demand to warrant the reinstatement of the men-only sessions.

I’m sorry but this claim simply doesn’t hold water. The survey involved questioning just 71 customers – less than half of them men.

Can I suggest the real reason for the reinstatement is that the council was finally forced to acknowledge that back in autumn 2011 it had failed to properly consider all possible alternatives to axing the men-only sessions?

To comply with the Equality Act 2010 and indeed its own commitment to oppose discrimination on all grounds, it had a duty to set these options down in writing and then fully explain why each was rejected.

What is really concerning about the whole of this saga is that Harrogate Council is supposed to have a department whose role includes monitoring the council’s activities to ensure it complies with all its policy commitments and legal duties. And yet the discriminatory admissions policy at the Turkish Baths was allowed to continue unchecked and uncorrected for nearly five years.

Isn’t it time that someone explained why that was allowed to happen?

Peter Lilley

Valley Drive, Harrogate