Austerity measures and budget cuts will see regular swimmers gradually excluded from Leicester City’s swimming pools.
Ayleston Swimming Baths
Andrew Beddow; head of Sports Services at Leicester City Council, has implemented a raft of measures that will have a lasting impact on the sport in Leicester.
Members of the public are invited to share their thoughts in a consultation process but in essence the future course for city swimmers has already been plotted.
Leicester Bede House Bathing Station
From today the general public are excluded from Aylestone swimming baths between 4 and 6 pm; essentially to save money on lifeguards. This has until now been a popular time for swimming at the pool, but from today family’s will only be able to swim between 6 – 7 pm. If this fails to attract sufficient numbers then even this brief concession could be axed in the future. The 4 – 6 pm slot will be devoted to the learn to swim program said Mr Beddow (in a forty minute discussion), so that the Council can make more money from the pool, but as swimming lessons are currently under subscribed, the claim that excluding the general public will enrich the Council doesn’t hold water. A failure to ensure that all swimmers paid their dues (many family’s took a free swim whilst one of their children had lessons) has meant that on paper at least, the pool did not appear as popular as it in fact was.
Pool to Close – Exciting Changes?
Several other pools in the city will be affected, with New Parks swimming pool being most likely the next victim of the cuts. As the lions share of new funding is being spent on gym equipment, the public may well be excluded from this pool altogether with school swimming lessons, Council run swimming lessons after school and swimming club sessions (with lifeguard cover provided available at an additional fee) early in the new year.
Although these developments are described as “exciting changes to our membership” (see above), what will be the effect on swimmers? Members could well be excluded from the pool!
Leicester Leys Leisure Centre
Swimmers are being encouraged to swim at Braunstone pool (which is very busy already) or at Leicester Leys Leisure Center (fun pool) which is very popular and turns swimmers away at certain times because the pool is full. Until now the fun pool has not been classified as a swimming pool, but from today, those purchasing a swim pass will find that the fun pool has been reinvented as a swimming pool in an effort to soften the blow that the City swimming restrictions will inflict on the sport.
Those learning to swim at City pools prior to September 1, 2017 have been encouraged to use any of the City’s pools for free as often as they desired in an effort to boost their swimming proficiency. From today even such students will be excluded from Ayelstone pool just as soon as their lesson is over, with other pools seeing restrictions in the New Year. They can of course go home and come back later, or travel across the city to another pool for a swim after their lesson, but realistically I can’t see that happening.
On one hand the Council are working to retain all the swimming pools in the city, but on the other, by excluding swimmers from the pools they save, Leicester City Council are steering away from sport for all, and are refocusing on sport for profit.
The aim when building these swimming pools was to provide a public amenity, but it seems that such notions are becoming ancient history. Even so, all the blame cannot be left at the Councils door; our changing culture has transformed the way we use swimming pools. At one time children would take themselves swimming, and indeed the free swims at New Parks Pool see children queuing to get in. Children have always made up the greater part of the swimming public, but ever since the Mores Murders shocked the nation, children have had their freedom to roam gradually curtailed. The Council recognise the need to get more children swimming if they are going to keep their pools open, yet preventing new swimmers from swimming at convenient times and locations will prove counterproductive. Under the new arrangements those who swim for exercise and pleasure will find themselves gradually squeezed out of the program and ultimately; hung out to dry.
NO SWIMMING LEICESTER
Will early closing times and swimming restrictions force swimmers back to the river (as has happened in Kettering) from which they were plucked back in the 1970’s? Or will Leicester become a city where you can neither swim outdoors or in? Many may scoff at that question thinking that it could never happen, yet Leicester once stood head and shoulders above other city’s as its swimming champions won gold medals at the Olympic games. Times change, and our river swimming venues are all lost to history. If history repeats itself we could well see swimmers very much restricted over the next few months, even indoors.
Thousands Swim at Rutland Water August Bank Holiday 2017