Pensioners set up petition to halt charges for swim lessons
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.”