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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

County reduces free swimming provision

Denbighshire County Council has expressed its concern and disappointment at news that the Welsh Government is to reduce the council’s free swim funding by £20,000 – with only six weeks notice.

The Welsh Government provides funding on an annual basis to all local authorities to provide free swimming for under 16s and those aged over 60.

The amount is reviewed on an annual basis and local authorities are informed of the outcome.

In recent years, Denbighshire has been able to provide more than the minimum required by Welsh Government, but as a result of the reduction in funding  announced in February, now warns that the programme will need to reduce.

The changes mean that the council will not actually cut any swimming lessons for children.  It will be maintaining the programme but says it will need to charge for the majority of lessons in the holidays.

The council is also maintaining free access for over 60s in public sessions, but people will need to pay for swimming lessons.

The council has written to the Welsh Government to express its concerns.

Councillor Huw Jones, Cabinet Lead Member for Tourism, Youth and Leisure, said: “The council  is making it absolutely clear that it has no option but to remove all free swimming sessions, considered over and above sessions that we are required to provide under the terms of the agreement with Welsh Government, given the reduction in funding.

"We recognise some authorities in Wales have had much greater reductions through the formula, but nevertheless, it is almost impossible for a council to forward plan and make allowances for funding when decisions are made so late in the day, with little consultation.

"The council will do all it can, to protect as many sessions as possible within the context of the remaining grant allocation.

"At a time when Welsh councils are under pressure to protect important front line services, this is yet another big blow, and one which we are left with, to communicate to the public. Welsh Government continue to plough funding into health, but cutting free swimming will inevitably have a longer term impact on the health and well-being of our residents.   

“Every authority in Wales has been affected by the funding cuts but our main concern is over the lack of communication and notice from Welsh Government in introducing this fundamental change to the funding formula.

“Councils plan their budgets well in advance and we feel that it is unfair to introduce a cut so late in the financial year, as we now need to adapt our free swim offer, in light of the funding allocation, unfortunately there will be a reduction in the number of sessions."

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