Free swims afloat again

Dominic Bareham FREE swims look to have been saved, thanks to an 11th hour funding agreement.The on/off saga took a fresh twist this week when health chiefs said they were able to pledge funding for the government scheme, such was their commitment to the borough's health.

Dominic Bareham

FREE swims look to have been saved, thanks to an 11th hour funding agreement.

The on/off saga took a fresh twist this week when health chiefs said they were able to pledge funding for the government scheme, such was their commitment to the borough's health.

It means that, from April, the over- 60s and possibly the under-16s should not be charged at borough council pools, thanks to Great Yarmouth and Waveney Primary Care Trust.


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The intervention came just before the borough council was due to tell the government it could not take up its offer of a £35,000 grant because of the shadow cast over who would pay in the long term.

A trust spokeswoman said it was a chance to address health inequalities in the Yarmouth and Waveney districts, where cost was a barrier to taking exercise and where a man in the most affluent areas could expect to live 18 years longer than another in the most deprived. She added: “Increasing opportunities for the disadvantaged to improve their health, for example, with the offer of free or cheaper exercise, will help to bridge this gap. Increasing health increases well-being, helping to prevent illness.”

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The exact sum provided by the trust has yet to be decided.

Council leader Barry Coleman said its response to the government consultation stated it agreed in principle to introducing free swims for the over-60s if sufficient funding was available from the care trust.

He added: “The principle of introducing the free swims was not in doubt, but the fact was we get so many of these short-term funding agreements coming from the government which we were supposed to make decisions about yesterday and the council is left holding the financial can for things they are not

responsible for.

“We could not commit in those circumstances at such short notice, but we are happy to work with the PCT to enable the free swims to happen.”

A decision on whether to accept the introduction of free swims for the over-60s is due at the next meeting of the council cabinet. A further decision will then be made on whether to extend the scheme to the under-16s.

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