Borough rejects free swimming initiative

PENSIONERS in Ipswich who want free swimming sessions will have to catch the bus to Felixstowe because the borough is refusing to take part in the government initiative.

PENSIONERS in Ipswich who want free swimming sessions will have to catch the bus to Felixstowe because the borough is refusing to take part in the government initiative.

In a bid to get more people involved in sport by the time of the London Olympics, culture secretary Andy Burnham has pledged �80m to help councils in England to cover the cost of providing free swimming.

Participating authorities will also be able to draw on a �60m pot to refurbish and maintain pools.

Mr Burnham has signalled that under-16s will be the next group to be given free swimming, with every age group eligible to swim for nothing by 2012.


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But unless Ipswich Borough Council has a dramatic change of heart, there will be no free entry to Crown Pools for anyone.

Labour politicians in the town have hit out at what they see as the council's short sightedness in not taking part in a project aimed at improving health outcomes.

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Bryony Rudkin, whose family will be joining the trek to Felixstowe to enjoy their swimming, said: “It's quite unbelievable.

“Here's the government doing all it can to encourage people to stay healthy through exercise and our own council has said it wants nothing to do with it.”

Mrs Rudkin's mother and father John and Lucy Benton, who live in Martlesham, also travel to Felixstowe to swim.

Mrs Benton said: “Older people recovering for major surgery such as knee and hip operations are told to exercise to help them recover and what better way is there than swimming? Yet here is Ipswich deciding it wants no part of the government scheme.”

Borough council leader Liz Harsant said the government should stop dictating to councils what to do.

“They come up with all these headline grabbing schemes, but the funding is always short - as in the case of free bus fares for the elderly - which means council taxpayers have to pick up the shortfall.

“If Ipswich residents want to travel to Felixstowe or elsewhere, that is their choice. But we already underwrite sporting activities and we are not prepared to ask council taxpayers, many of whom are already facing economic hardship in these times of recession, to shoulder an additional burden running into tens of thousands of pounds.”

Should swimming be free for all? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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