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Councils to get new chance to sign up for free swimming scheme

Councils to get new chance to sign up for free swimming scheme

News Release issued by the COI News Distribution Service on 11 August 2009

113/09
11 August 2009

Local councils in England are to get a fresh opportunity to join the Government’s successful free swimming initiative, which has seen more than four million visits to pools by senior citizens and young people since it launched in April.

Councils that are only offering free swimming for people aged 60 and over at the moment are being given the chance to provide it for people aged 16 and under as well – and local authorities not participating in the scheme at all will be able to join, providing they offer free swimming for both the age groups.

Up to £1m of unallocated spending from within the overall £140m package is being set aside to pay for the offer. Five Government departments are funding the two-year scheme – the Departments of Health, Children, Schools and Families, Culture, Media and Sport, Work and Pensions and Communities and Local Government.

Announcing the move, Ben Bradshaw, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, said: "The Government’s free swimming initiative has been a huge success and most councils are working with us to make free access to local pools a reality, with many injecting money themselves. But a minority are not offering it all, or only for senior citizens. We want all of them to have a chance now - after seeing how successful it has been - to jump in and share the full benefits with their local communities."

Almost four out of every five councils – 259 – are offering free swimming for senior citizens, with 190 of them also providing it for young people. The move to expand free swimming is aimed at the 69 councils who are restricting it to people over 60, and the 67 not in the scheme at all.

In addition, any councils offering free swimming for both age groups, as a result of this move, will be able to apply for a share of a capital modernisation fund of £25m to build new pools, or renovate existing ones, in 2010/11.

First official data about the scheme, covering the months of April, May and June, showed that there had been 4.4 million free visits to swimming pools - 2.8m of them for young people and 1.6 million for senior citizens.

Communities Secretary John Denham said:

''We want more people, both young and old, to swim for free - and save money, make friends and get fit in one go. Councils have a fresh chance to get in on the game under our free swimming scheme and let more kids and teenagers take part too.''

Notes to Editors

1. Local authorities have until 8 September 2009 to indicate if they are interested in joining the scheme, or extending it to young people. Councils should indicate interest in seeking funding from the Capital Modernisation Fund as soon as possible.

2. Further information on the free swimming initiative, including councils participating and their figures for the first quarter from April to June 2009, is available at www.culture.gov.uk/freeswimming.

3. The scheme is being delivered in conjunction with local authorities, the Local Government Association, the ASA and Sport England. Further information on the Free Swimming Capital Modernisation Programme, administered by Sport England, is available on their website at www.sportengland.org.

4. Up to £40m was allocated for each of the financial years 2009-10 and 2010-11 for local councils to help meet the cost of providing free access to pools during standard swimming sessions.

5. Councils that are providing free swimming for both age groups were allocated £10 million to improve their local facilities in 2008/09.

6. A £50 million capital fund has been made available to councils to modernise existing facilities or help build new ones in 2009/10 and 2010/11.

Contacts:

DCMS Press Enquiries and Out of hours telephone pager
Phone: 020 7211 6263
Mobile: 07699 751153
NDS.DCMS@coi.gsi.gov.uk

John Evans.
Phone: 020 7211 6931
john.evans@culture.gsi.gov.uk