Free swims at leisure centre?

Richard Robinson

Richard Robinson

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FREE swimming could be offered to all youngsters at Kimberley Leisure Centre during this summer’s school holidays to celebrate the Olympics.

Broxtowe Borough Council’s cabinet is considering offering the scheme at both leisure centres in Kimberley and Bramcote between July 27 and September 9.

The idea follows a successful free swimming scheme this summer, when more than 11,000 people aged under 16 or over 60 took advantage of free swims at the council-run leisure centres.

Cllr Richard Robinson, cabinet member for arts, culture and leisure, said he was hopeful the scheme would get the go-ahead.

He said: “Free swimming last year was really successful and we saw a huge number of people taking part – especially among under 16s, with a 37 per cent increase over two years.

“We wanted to continue to increase participation in sport in preparation for the Olympics, and this has been one of the most successful leisure schemes we have run.”

A report into the summer initiative, requested by the cabinet, showed 8,881 under-16s and 2,337 over-60s swam in August 2011, compared to 5,551 under-16s and 2,186 over-60s in August 2009.

Eric Kerry, a Conservative councillor who sits on the overview and scrutiny committee, which made the recommendation for the cabinet to consider the Olympics scheme, said: “I know that over recent years there was a significant increase in swimming by under-16s.

“It wasn’t so great for other groups, like the over-60s. But our target group for the Olympics is young people, because ideally we would like to find our own Olympic champion.

“I find it interesting the council is considering putting some of its resources into this.”

David Watts, leader of the council’s Liberal Democrat group, welcomed the idea.

He said: “We have fought very hard to get as much free swimming as we can for people, but obviously it is hard with money.

“It’s a way to get people as fit and active as possible, and something I would be happy to support.”

The Government used to fund free swimming for youngsters and people over 60, but this ended in July 2010 as part of cost-cutting measures.

The value of free swims was £12,688 last summer, but the council said this cannot be considered as ‘lost income’, as fewer people would have gone swimming if the offer had not been running.