Page last updated at 09:38 GMT, Thursday, 25 September 2008 10:38 UK

Councils back free swimming plan

Swimmers at Brockwell Lido
The government has offered 80m to fund the scheme

The majority of councils in Hampshire have backed plans to introduce free swimming for over-60s by the time of the London 2012 Olympics.

The government has offered 80m to fund the scheme and authorities had until last week to apply for cash.

Portsmouth, Fareham, Southampton, Eastleigh and Gosport councils have all approved the plan.

But Isle of Wight council has blocked the move claiming it would cost taxpayers extra money.

Council leader David Pugh said: "We are proud of the investment this council makes in the services we provide for residents of all ages.

"From free homecare for the over-80s to the free swims we offer our young people during school holidays.

Local decisions have to be made locally and it is not going to work everywhere
Chris White, Local Government Association

"This new idea for free swimming will commit us to spending taxpayers money on a hastily announced scheme that has not been thought through."

But Portsmouth City Council said any additional costs would be worth it.

Councillor Terri Hall, member for culture and leisure, said: "We think it is a great opportunity for people over 60 to get swimming.

"When you read the fine print you see it will mean paying towards it, but the benefits to me outweigh that."

New Forest and Test Valley councils have also backed the move while Winchester City Council and Havant Borough Council have agreed in principle.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said the plan would improve fitness among the older generation but accepted the councils' decisions.

Chris White, chairman of Culture, Tourism and Sport Board, said: "People of all ages are not doing enough exercise so if we can all be encouraged to do more sport and swimming that is good.

"There are clearly some snags, like there is not really enough funding without making a hit on council tax."


SEE ALSO
Free swimming scheme launched
08 Nov 04 |  Wales

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