CAMPAIGNERS were today celebrating after a turbulent council meeting gave them their biggest victory in the fight to save York's swimming pools.

Supporters of the Yearsley and Barbican pools applauded City of York Council as Labour councillors failed to defeat a Liberal Democrat motion to explore saving the pools - despite Conservatives refusing to back it.

York's most vulnerable people and their carers also scored a victory as home care charges were drastically slashed at the first full council meeting since two by-elections stripped Labour of control.

The opposition ensured discretionary rural rate relief will be offered to qualifying rural post offices and stores - helping to keep open shops that are central to small communities.

And parents in Dunnington and Elvington were delighted when another Liberal Democrat motion restored a link between the village's primary schools and Fulford Secondary School.

The U-turns were forced by opposition members who managed to overturn a number of other decisions because councillors were absent when last night's meeting was called at short notice.

And the pools vote showed the first signs of a split in Labour's ranks as Councillor David Wilde abstained.

Those unable to be present last night included Liberal Democrats Peter and June Vaughan and Labour members Ken King, Terry Walker and Martin Brumby.

Their absence left Liberal Democrats and Labour with 22 members each. The Liberal Democrats were joined by Independent Janet Hopton in the pools vote.

Coun Wilde said of his abstention today: "I'm hoping that when a proper financial report is made about swimming pools we will be able to put them in good order and we will still have swimming facilities."

Coun Hills said his abstention made no difference and the motion would have been passed anyway. Yearsley campaigner Fiona Evans said: "I am absolutely delighted. This is a very positive step and the best thing that has happened since the campaign started."

Barbican campaigner Dorothy Nicholson said: "We are delighted, but I have no confidence that Rod Hills will stop and take note of it."

Dunnington schools campaigner Peter Rees Jones said: "Our children won't be split up and all of them will be able to go to the same secondary schools as their friends."

"This is great news for our communities. We are overjoyed."

Home care charges were reduced after ten per cent of users withdrew following increases, agreed earlier in the year, took the price of domestic support services from £2.90 to £4.75 per hour for those on means-tested benefits.

The Liberal Democrat motion cut that to state pension inflation levels - 1.1 per cent. Labour councillors abstained.

Liberal Democrat leader Steve Galloway said today: "This is not the end of the swimming pools campaign, but it is the beginning of the end and it proves that democracy works and that people have to be listened to."

The campaign, which resulted in a petition signed by more than 25,000 people, was started after the pools were threatened by a review designed to make council services more efficient.

Council leader Rod Hills said: "The decision on the pools doesn't actually take us any further forward. It doesn't say that the council is committed to keeping them open, it just asks how can we keep them open ?"

He said a full public consultation on the pools, due to start in the next few days, would still go ahead, and a final decision will hopefully be made next month.

He said: "We expected some of the things previously passed by only one vote to be reversed given the new make-up of the council."

Mrs Evans accused Labour councillors of discourtesy after they heckled her as she spoke before the vote. Council leader Rod Hills left the chamber.

Coun Hills said he left to visit the toilet and returned immediately.

But he added: "She said some pretty outrageous things and some members demurred at that."

Conservative motions to gather more financial information about the pools and cutting social care charges were defeated.