Page last updated at 10:53 GMT, Monday, 13 October 2008 11:53 UK

Free swimming offer turned down

K2 leisure centre
Crawley's K2 centre is earmarked as a training centre for 2012

Councils in Sussex and Surrey have said they will not be signing up to a government scheme to provide swimming for the over 60s and under 16s.

Crawley and Reigate and Banstead are among councils who have rejected the 140m scheme because they say it is under-funded and will cost them money.

Crawley said free swimming would cost it 46,000 a year, while Reigate and Banstead put the figure at 84,000.

The government said 80% of local authorities had taken up the scheme.

It announced the 140m fund in June to boost sport and fitness as the centrepiece of a plan for a lasting legacy from the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games.

How does 46,000 per year stack up against increased health and life opportunities of even a small number of people?
Geraint Thomas, Crawley resident

The scheme, which starts in April, runs for two years.

Crawley resident Geraint Thomas, a retired geography teacher, said he was very disappointed his borough had refused to join in.

"Bear in mind that 100,000 people live in Crawley," he said.

"Even if only a small percentage of over 60s and under 16s were persuaded to swim regularly this would lead to a significant improvement in wellbeing and life expectancy for many people.

"How does 46,000 per year stack up against increased health and life opportunities of even a small number of people?"

Reigate and Banstead said that although the health benefits of swimming were undisputed, the cost to the borough's taxpayers was unacceptable.

Out of pocket

"Free swimming for these groups in principal is a great idea, but with the government unwilling to fully fund the scheme it remains simply that - a good idea," he said.

Crawley council said its neighbouring authorities of Horsham and Mid Sussex as well as Reigate and Banstead had also turned down free swimming.

"The government's offer will leave many local authorities significantly out of pocket and there is no guarantee that funding will continue after the initial two years," said a spokesman.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport said 300 out of 354 local authorities were participating in the offer for over 60s.

For the under 16s, 296 local authorities had expressed their interest in claiming their share of the fund.




SEE ALSO
Council rejects free swim scheme
30 Sep 08 |  Manchester

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