Budget shortfall may hit swim plan

PUBLISHED: 14:52 13 October 2008 | UPDATED: 09:47 10 June 2010

MONDAY, OCTOBER 13: Planned free swimming for Topsham's pensioners and youngsters may fall by the wayside due to a government funding shortfall. Exeter City Council has signed up to the Government's proposals to provide free swimming for the over-60s at three major Exeter po

Planned free swimming for Topsham's pensioners and youngsters may fall by the wayside due to a government funding shortfall.Exeter City Council has signed up to the Government's proposals to provide free swimming for the over-60s at three major Exeter pools, the Pyramids Swimming and Leisure Centre, on Heavitree Road, Northbrook Swimming Pool, on Beacon Lane, and Riverside Leisure Centre, on Cowick Street.They have applied for £32,000 from the Government to subsidise the cost for over-60s and are waiting for a decision.The council is also hoping to apply for funding to provide free swimming for children 16 years and under.However, since the Government has not confirmed the funding, councillors decided at last week's executive committee to delegate the decision to the Director of Community and Environment and the Lead Councillor for Environment and Leisure, pending further information on the funding available.In a report that went before the committee, council officers said: "Since the funding available from the Government for the over-60s' swimming scheme is likely to cover the cost to the council, this has been accepted."But, in a letter sent to the Government by Hazel Ball, Exeter City Council Director of Community and Environment, she pointed out that the council has had a disappointing budget settlement and is having to make some tough decisions.The report further said: "Although we do not yet know the amount available to us in Government subsidy, this will almost certainly be insufficient to cover the cost of free swimming."Given the financial climate, this may not be affordable."It is in any case difficult to make commitments at this stage when budget priorities for the coming two years have not been agreed."The government has offered funding to modernise the city's swimming pools if they sign up to both pots of funding.The council have also approached Devon County Council and the Devon Primary Care Trust for funding.The council previously offered free swimming to youngsters under 18, but can no longer afford it and ended the programme this year.

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