Swim scheme is 'too costly'

PUBLISHED: 17:30 16 October 2008 | UPDATED: 09:48 10 June 2010

THE chairman of Exmouth's Age Concern has blasted East Devon District Council for refusing to sign up to a Government scheme to provide free swimming to the over-60s. The decision is reminiscent of the controversy two years ago when EDDC was the only one

THE chairman of Exmouth's Age Concern has blasted East Devon District Council for refusing to sign up to a Government scheme to provide free swimming to the over-60s.The decision is reminiscent of the controversy two years ago when EDDC was the only one of Devon's eight district councils not take part in the free nation-wide bus pass scheme for pensioners.EDDC say, as with the bus pass controversy, the decision is motivated by a desire not to put a further burden on taxpayers.But Mr Martin, of Church Path, Lympstone, said that the nationwide scheme is even being rolled out in another Tory-controlled council, Bexhill (East Sussex) - just one of only two others in the country with a greater proportion of pensioners than East Devon: "Swimming is widely regarded as particularly beneficial for fitness in the retired age group."With an adult swim in Leisure East Devon costing £4.80, this is not a sum that many retired people can afford - particularly if they need to swim regularly to maximise the benefit."I do not know what is going on in the heads of councillors, especially as they could be spending hundreds of thousands on a judicial review challenging a unitary Devon, but I know what signal it is sending to the largest sector of its voting population - exactly the same signal being sent to people thinking of retiring here."The Government had offered to subsidise EDDC's scheme by £62,000 a year - but over-60s currently bring in £162,000 a year through swimming. Councillors argue that the £100,000 shortfall would inevitably be picked up by council taxpayers, and Councillor Andrew Moulding, EDDC's portfolio holder resources, said: "EDDC is not planning to participate in the free swimming scheme as it exists at the moment. "We have not submitted an expression of interest because we believe the scheme is under-funded by a factor of around two-thirds. You could say their figures don't hold water..."We would be happy to participate if the Government were to fund the scheme properly. "We have seen examples in the past where the Council Tax payer has had to subsidise schemes such as free bus travel and this appears to be just another case of the Government taking the applause but giving someone else the burden."Mid Devon District Council is offering a year's trial to see if the £26,000 subsidy covers costs while Teignbridge District Council is taking part, with a £50,496 subsidy.Exeter City Council has applied for £32,000 and is awaiting a reply.

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