Lichfield turns down free swimming offer

Picture: Poppyseed Bandits

A swimmer. Pic: Poppyseed Bandits

It’s somewhat of a surprise to see that Lichfield was one of the few areas in the region which has apparently rejected the offer of money to fund free swimming from the Government.

At a time when the health of us Brits is causing major concern and when people are short of cash for leisure activities surely this incentive would have been a chance to kill two birds with one stone?

While the decision surprises me, at least one of the apparent reasons – according to the Express & Star report – is of little surprise.

It would seem that the decision to reject the funding was down to two reasons.

The first was the fact that the council would have had to foot the bill to continue free swimming once the two-year scheme had ended.

That’s an interesting one, but one which could be argued either way.

The second reason is that apparently free swimmers would overcrowd the city’s pools and drive existing swimming business away.

Is it really a business decision? Or does it have more to do with social snobbery as the paid-for swimmers don’t fancy sharing with the newcomers?

Considering the scheme is aimed at under 16s and the over 60s I’d have thought scope could have been found to include them in the schedule. These are, after all, key demographics when it comes to the need for physical exercise.

Although there are financial arguments over why the free swimming can’t be taken up in Lichfield, surely the benefits of such a scheme would outweigh the negatives?

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Founder of LichfieldLive and editor of the site.

3 Comments

  1. Andrew McCurdy

    1st April, 2009 at 11:30 am

    If only we had a decent Swimming Pool / Leisure Center in Lichfield (i.e. not Burntwood) then I might have cared a little more about this.

  2. Sammy J

    1st April, 2009 at 11:47 am

    But surely having the money for free swimming would have freed up the funds from paid swimmers to be re-invested into better facilities?

  3. The free swimming was a difficult one. Fine in principal but when looked at in detail would have cost Lichfield council tax payers more because paying users, who wouldn’t qualify for free swimming anyway under the scheme, would have been displaced by free users.

    There was also the addtional capacity risk that because it would not have been limited to just Lichfield District residents other people from neighbouring authority areas may have used it because Burntwood is a much newer facility than others ‘locally’ adding to the capacity problem.

    We did try to negotiate with the Government to allocate free sessions at specific times of the week when the pool is a little less busy but they refused even to consider it.

    Remember the supposed ‘free’ bus transport which was meant to be paid for fully by central Government? Actually it costs local council tax payers several percent of council tax… hence the Government’s recent decision to rejig that scheme.

    It’s worth noting that a growing number of local councils which have taken up the free swimming have found exactly what we were concerned about. The income lost by ‘payers’ going elsewhere because they can’t get in to swim has been met yet again by the council tax payer in those places.

    These type of schemes are always difficult to assess in advance and the Government refuses point blank to keep some sort of financial reserve in case, as has happened with free buses and now this, they get their sums wrong.

    Excellent blog by the way!

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