A WAR of words has broken out after a backbench Tory councillor suggested a borough may need to privatise or close its leisure centres to meet its cash gap.

Barrowford representative Cllr Ken Turner made the claim at Tuesday's full meeting of Pendle Council.

Labour opposition leader Cllr Mohammed Iqbal said he had revealed the Conservatives secret agenda to shut at least two of the three leisure centres run by the council-subsidised Pendle Leisure Trust.

Cllr Paul White, leader of the ruling Tory group, accused his counterpart of 'not telling the truth' and spreading 'fake news'.

Liberal Democrat group leader Cllr David Whipp, who had moved a motion calling for the three centres to remain in public ownership said he could not see how Tory cost-cutting proposals could keep the centres in the council's hands.

The angry debate followed Cllr White announcing a strategic review of the borough's leisure provision.

The Pendle Leisure Trust, which receives and annual £1.3million subsidy from the council, currently runs three centres in Barnoldswick, Colne and Nelson.

Cllr Turner told the debate: ""I'll nail my colours to the mast. We have immense difficulties.

"This is a non-statutory requirement. These services are better provided by a company out there.

"If it's a case of closing two out of the three centres, so be it."

Making clear it was a personal view, he added that he believed the best option was to close all three and get a private firm to build a brand new 'super-leisure centre' in Colne serving the whole borough.

Cllr Iqbal said: "I like other members present am extremely shocked that Pendle Conservative councillors are, within a few months of taking control, publicly declaring their true plans to close leisure centres.

"This shows the contempt they have for the community and Cllr White needs to resign as his secret plans have been leaked."

Cllr White said: "Councillor Iqbal is not telling the truth. Plain and simple. I am not going to sit back and let him spread fake news.

"The Conservatives will not close any Leisure Centres in Pendle. There are no secret plans.

"The very basis of the consultation is to protect services well into the future."

Cllr Whipp said: "The Conservative 'aspiration' is to cut the cost to zero.

"Are they wanting to price the services beyond the pocket of ordinary people or to make cuts so there aren’t any


"I cannot foresee how the cost can be reduced to zero and keep the services."

The LibDem motion was defeated by 23 votes to 19.