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Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Swimming club's joy after campaign to reverse council monopoly on lessons

You may have seen in a big splash ( sorry ) in the Evening Post that common sense and fairness has finally prevailed in the Council's strategy for swimming in the city.

Portway Swimming Club youngsters celebrating victory of common sense!
Absurdly, and most oddly, the Council had decided that ONLY its private provider of leisure services , SLM, could deliver learn to swim lessons - despite that fact that some of the city's swimming clubs ran very much loved and very successful learn to swim sessions.

The Council therefore booted clubs like 'Portway' out of their pool time, to make sure that they didn't commit the heinous sin of teaching children to swim. They could do other things in that pool time ( I guess a children's party would be okay ) but heaven forbid they should be taught to swim.

Madness - and utterly wrong.

We had conversations and meetings with the Amateur Swimming Assocation locally, the clubs and Cllr Simon Cook , cabinet member with responsibility for sport and leisure, the Council finally saw sense. (But not before officers had ignored the request of Councillor Cook that Portway should be allowed to carry on its lessons in Henbury pool while a suitable solution was found.) 

I found that although the council said their contract said only SLM could provide learn to swim, this was not in fact the case.

I also held a debate in the Chamber in the House of Commons on this.

FINALLY, thanks significantly to Cllr Cook and the Mayor George Ferguson ( who saw the madness of this) common sense and justice prevailed.  But how amazing that we had to go through all this in the first place.

As a former swimmer myself ( I competed nationally for City of Bristol in 200m and 100m backstroke, under the superb coaching of international coach Eric Henderson who was appallingly hounded out of Bristol by some of the then council officers) I know just how much club swimming means to these youngsters, and as a former surf life-guard on the beaches in North Cornwall, I have seen how swimming is a sport that quite literally saves lives.

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