Charges for swimming clubs are set to increase after councillors agreed plans to make more use of high school swimming pools in Falkirk and help them break even.
The changes followed an extensive review of school pools, involving council staff from many different departments – including head teachers – looking at ways the council could increase income and reduce costs.
The review was agreed when councillors voted to reject a plan to close four high school swimming pools after a huge public outcry.
Measures suggested range from stricter use of pool covers to an expansion of the council’s Learn to Swim programme.
While councillors acknowledged the work that had gone into the proposals, there were concerns about the steep hike for swimming clubs which have been paying well below the national average.
The proposal in the report would have seen charges to aquatic clubs rising sharply from £12.50 to £63 for every 45 minutes, in line with the national average.
But while councillors from all parties agreed that prices would need to rise, they were concerned that the increase was just too sharp.
Labour’s deputy leader, Councillor Euan Stainbank, proposed that the price rise should be phased in much more gradually over three years.
He welcomed the report, saying “it vindicates the decision that the council took back in May to vote for the Falkirk Labour amendment, believing that we can substantially increase the income from pools by expanding and remodelling the way that they are used.”
But he said that raising prices for aquatic club by five times the amount was concerning.
The SNP members agreed that the leap in pricing would affect swimming clubs.
Councillor Paul Garner, the SNP’s sport and leisure spokesperson, proposed increasing the hike over two years in a bid to help the clubs adapt.
He said: “The message coming from our communities was loud and clear – a reduction in our school swimming pools was a red line and we needed to propose an alternative that would keep them open.”
However, he warned that Labour’s plan to phase the increase over three years would risk the sustainability of the financial plan to keep pools open.
Council officers told members that the idea was to reduce the pool time for the clubs and encourage them to share the facilities where possible.
But Conservative and Independent councillors backed Labour’s proposals.
The system to book pools will also be standardised – the report points out that currently across the eight mainstream secondary schools, bookings are processed by four different organisations, charging four different prices.
While charges for PFI schools are made by the management company, Class 98, when the contracts end these will also be standardised.
Learn to Swim lessons (per month) will increase from £23.35 to £24.75.
Public swimming (per swim) will increase from £4.90 to £5.20 for adults and £2.80 to £3 for juniors.
Private/commercial lets with exclusive pool use will increase from £103.50 to £160.00 per hour.
Prices for aquatics clubs for 24/25 will rise to £25 per 45 minutes; for 25/26 will be £35; and from 26/27 should reflect the national average.
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