Norwich council leaders under fire over end of free swim scheme
Archant © 2011
Council leaders who have come under fire after the ending of a scheme which allowed thousands of people swim for free in Norwich say money simply is not available to keep it going.
Since 2009, people who held one of Norwich City Council’s Go4less cards were able to swim for free at the Riverside Leisure Pool.
But that scheme came to an end on July 10, and at a council meeting this week, questions were asked as to whether the council could continue it.
Lucy Galvin, Green city councillor for Wensum ward, said: “We all know money is tight, but keeping people healthy is an investment.
“What is the council doing to bridge the gap for these regular users and help them stay healthy?”
Brenda Arthur, leader of Norwich City Council, said that the scheme had been funded through a grant from central government called the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund (NRF).
She said: “This grant of £74,000 was awarded in April 2009 and has, amazingly, lasted for over two years and 43,000 free swims.
“The clear understanding was that free swimming was only there as long as the NRF grant was there. This money was never part of the council’s budget, it was external funding and now sadly the external grant has gone.”
She said the council had “worked hard” to ensure costs for people to swim at Riverside on a Go4less card, which are available to Norwich residents in receipt of certain benefits and their families, as well as to full-time students, remained affordable.
She said the price for a swim for Go4less card holders is £2.30 for adults and £1 for juniors compared to full prices of £4.25 and £2.55.
And she added there were a number of other offers available, including £15.99 per month for unlimited swimming for Go 4less card holders, £1.85 for an early morning swim between 7am and 9am and a discount for card holders who use direct debit.
The council this week launched its Your Services, Your Say consultation asking the public to help decide how to make some of the £4.6m savings the authority needs to find in the next financial year.
And Ms Arthur added: “Next year’s budgets are not just tight, they are very challenging. We face some difficult options and will therefore be looking throughout our consultation at what is the role and responsibility of a local authority.
“Clearly, we acknowledge the importance of encouraging people to become and remain fit and healthy and understand what value this brings to individuals and communities. “Therefore we will do all we can to work with partner organisations to enable people to access opportunities that will contribute to their overall health.”
• You can have your say on the council’s Your Services, Your Say consultation by visiting www.norwich.gov.uk
• What do you think about the end to free swimming? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email firstname.lastname@example.org