Pen­sion­ers set up pe­ti­tion to halt charges for swim lessons

East Kilbride News - - POVERTY - Ni­cola Find­lay

A pe­ti­tion against the in­tro­duc­tion of charges for swim­ming lessons for pen­sion­ers has se­cured hun­dreds of sig­na­tures.

East Kil­bride swim­mers branded the move by South La­nark­shire Coun­cil to in­tro­duce a cost for lessons, which were pre­vi­ously in­cluded in the an­nual fee for South La­nark­shire Leisure and Cul­ture (SLLC) Ac­tiveage mem­ber­ship, as “short-sighted”.

Mem­bers get a free block of eight lessons but will now have to shell out if they need or want more.

Fu­ri­ous swim­mers who use the town’s Dol­lan Aqua Cen­tre launched the pe­ti­tion and have at­tracted 700 sig­na­tures.

They handed over the pe­ti­tion at a meet­ing with coun­cil of­fi­cials this week.

Ac­tiveage mem­ber­ship al­lows older res­i­dents to ac­cess a num­ber of coun­cil-run ex­er­cise and leisure fa­cil­i­ties and cam­paign­ers say any charge on top of the an­nual £56.24 fee is a bar­rier to the 60-plus age group re­main­ing ac­tive.

Cam­paign­ers, who want the coun­cil to re­verse their de­ci­sion, have the back­ing of South La­nark­shire Coun­cil’s Labour Group and East Kil­bride, Strathaven and Les­ma­hagow SNP MP Dr Lisa Cameron.

How­ever, fol­low­ing the meet­ing, cam­paigner An­gus Mor­ri­son told the News:“The coun­cil re­mained stead­fast with the de­ci­sion and failed to un­der­stand that while this may be a short-term fi­nan­cial gain, it is out­weighed by the long-term im­pact on the likes of so­cial work and health if older peo­ple be­come less ac­tive due to these charges.

“Many of those tak­ing the lessons have mo­bil­ity prob­lems and some have to over­come a fear of wa­ter so the block of eight half-hour lessons in­cluded in the mem­ber­ship isn’t suf­fi­cient to make them con­fi­dent.

“Sev­eral swim­mers have said pay­ing for ex­tra lessons will ac­tu­ally cost them an ex­tra £144 per year – de­spite the coun­cil say­ing they are of­fered at a re­duced rate.

“The health ben­e­fits of ex­er­cise such as swim­ming are well­recog­nised and a num­ber of the group who are solely re­liant on a pen­sion sim­ply will not be able to con­tinue with lessons.”

Labour Group leader, East Kil­bride Cen­tral North coun­cil­lor Joe Fagan, said: “Hav­ing con­sid­ered the case put both by the leisure and cul­ture trust and the cam­paign­ers, the Labour Group de­cided that we could not sup­port the in­tro­duc­tion of these charges.

“The ra­tio­nale be­hind the charges does not ap­pear to have been com­mu­ni­cated very well at all and if the charges lead to a re­duc­tion in phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity among the group of older peo­ple these lessons are de­signed to help then it will have been a com­pletely self-de­feat­ing ex­er­cise. The charges should be re­con­sid­ered and the de­ci­sion to im­pose them should be re­versed.”

Dr Cameron MP said: “I met with the swim­mers group re­cently and have since writ­ten to South La­nark­shire Leisure once again to raise their con­cerns re­gard­ing costs.

“Fol­low­ing from my in­ter­ven­tion, they had a meet­ing con­vened with South La­nark­shire Leisure to try to come to a res­o­lu­tion. I will con­tinue to as­sist their case to progress this mat­ter.”

SLLC gen­eral man­ager Gerry Camp­bell said: “I met with a group of reg­u­lar and val­ued Ac­ti­vage cus­tomers last week and was pleased to have the op­por­tu­nity to both hear their con­cerns first hand and to ex­plain that Ac­ti­vage mem­ber­ship still in­cludes free ac­cess to all nine of our swim­ming pools and a range of pool based ac­tiv­i­ties.

“We of­fer ev­ery Ac­ti­vage cus­tomer who can­not swim a free block of swim­ming lessons with the op­tion to pur­chase more lessons at a sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced fee.

“There­after, we would en­cour­age new swim­mers to join the al­ready pop­u­lar so­cial ses­sions that take place at the same time as those cus­tomers learn­ing to swim. These ses­sions en­able all cus­tomers to ben­e­fit from the so­cial side of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity and will con­tinue to be over­seen by mem­bers of SLLC staff.”

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