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Free swimming set to be slashed as part of Government cuts
22 June 2010
Free swimming for Sefton residents for the young and old looks set to be slashed as part of Government cuts, it was announced this week.

The Government announced that free swimming for the under-16 and over-60 age groups is set to axed across the country from the end of July as part of a series of cuts designed to cut costs, most of which were announced in the emergency budget today (June 22, 2010).

“The research shows that the great majority of free swimmers were swimming already, and would have paid to swim anyway. With a crippling deficit to tackle and tough decisions to take, this has become a luxury we can no longer afford,” said Sport and Olympics Minister Hugh Robertson.

“But our plans to deliver a community sports legacy, in partnership with Sport England, are progressing well and we expect to make a full announcement in July.”

The Government said that it has made the cut following a study into those who took part in the free swimming, and discovered that the majority who took part would have gone swimming even if they had to pay.

By ending the scheme next month, it argues it can save as much as £40m, in a move that will affect not just free swimming in Sefton, but other local authorities across the country.

“This announcement has just been made, so we will now look at the implications and take some recommendations to councillors in due course,” said a spokesperson for Sefton Council.

Meanwhile the cuts have attracted a hostile response in West Lancashire, where the council's Labour group have attacked the Tory and Liberal Democrat coalition plan.

“The coalition suggests, bizarrely, that the swimming programme does not offer value for money, even though an independent evaluation by Price Waterhouse Coopers says absolutely nothing of the sort; indeed the evaluation is quite clear that the programme is meetings its main aim of increasing physical activity rates amongst the two age groups,” said Councillor Paul Cotterill, the Labour group's leader.
West Lancashire Borough Council, meanwhile, are expected to make a full statement on the issue later this week.

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“If this Tory council has any sense of decency, it will confirm immediately that it will not stop free swimming as of 31 July, the point at which government funding now ceases, and that it will begin negotiations with Serco about providing the additional funding now necessary.”


By David Simister


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