Council and Trust defend decision to pull the plug on swimming clubs


Cheshire East Council supports the decision to stop local swimming clubs, including Wilmslow's Scorpions, from using the local leisure centre to deliver their swimming lessons.

Clubs across the borough were recently informed by Everybody Sport & Recreation, a charitable trust set up by Cheshire East Council in 2014 to run 15 leisure centres and swimming pools, that they will no longer allow swimming clubs to deliver lessons in their pools.

Due to financial reasons Everybody Sport & Recreation will be delivering the 'Learn to Swim Scheme' in house. However, they will allow Wilmslow Scorpions, who have been in operation for over 30 years and delivering Learn to Swim and competitive swimming throughout this time, to hire the pool for the more advanced club swimmers.

A Cheshire East Council spokesman said: "Everybody Sport and Leisure is a self-governing trust responsible for running leisure services on behalf of Cheshire East Council.

"We are aware of the proposal for ESAR's changes to the 'learn to swim' scheme at our leisure centres.

"Whilst we fully understand that this will have some impact on swimming clubs, who use our facilities for the teaching of swimming, we would like to emphasise that these clubs will continue to have access to significantly subsidised pool hire rates.

"It is to the benefit of our residents that any subsidy required to manage the leisure centres is kept to a minimum by prudent management.

"Most clubs use their pool hire time for competitive swimming and elite training and there are those clubs that place greater emphasis on swimming lessons for which they charge a fee.

"The Trust has informed the Council that the new policy applies to levels one to seven and that ESAR will feed swimming clubs with swimmers from level eight onwards, who wish to become competitive swimmers.

"The Council has been assured by ESAR that every child or adult wanting to learn to swim will be able to access swimming lessons through the ESAR 'Learn to Swim' scheme and in doing so, all children on the scheme will be able to access free public swimming sessions in Cheshire East pools.

"The Council would like to point out that other local authorities, including Trafford, Cheshire West and Chester and Stockport have also undertaken a similar process to ESAR.

"The national governing body for swimming, the Amateur Swimming Association, are fully aware of the changes proposed and are working with the clubs and the trust to support a smooth transition.

"Cheshire East Council is fully committed to investing in the health and fitness of our families and we want to see as many children and adults as possible enjoying our swimming pools and leisure facilities."

Wilmslow Scorpions, which is a not for profit organisation, have been informed by Everybody that they must cease delivering their Learn To Swim scheme by March 2017.

Chief Coach Pauline Busby told "
The LTS part of Wilmslow Scorpions provides the financial stability and continuity to enable members to enjoy their swimming, compete with other clubs and have every opportunity to excel. If the demands of the Everybody Trust are carried through it is felt that a valuable social and 
pastoral element of the club will be lost and a concern that swimmers will also find the transition to club swimming/ competition more difficult, resulting in lower levels of participation in the sport.

"The threat by Everybody of taking back the LTS along with/or charging higher rates for pool use could prove to be a financial burden the club cannot sustain as our LTS represents 40% of the club's total revenue with just over a hundred swimmers in the LTS Category. As a not for profit organisation the LTS contribution is vital for our survival, giving us the funding we need to continue to support our members through their competitive swimming journey. The club will have to consider introducing other elements to replace revenue lost."

Updated: 1pm Tuesday, 8th March.

Peter Hartwell, CEO and Andrew Kolker, Chairman at Everybody Sport and Recreation have issued the following statement today (Tuesday 8th March) regarding the changes to swimming club use in leisure centres in Cheshire East.

"Since autumn 2015 we have been in consultation with swimming clubs in Cheshire East that currently operate commercial learn to swim schemes in our facilities. We have made the decision that as of April 2017, the Trust will be delivering the Learn to Swim (ASA Stages 1-7) in house, enabling swimming clubs to focus on the competitive element and other aquatic disciplines such as waterpolo, lifesaving and synchronised swimming from Stage 8 onwards.

"Currently, Everybody teaches over 5,600 children and adults to swim in Cheshire East however we still have a waiting list of 1,000. The demand we have as a Trust to deliver lessons currently exceeds pool time availability due to swimming clubs often operating at peak times for heavily subsidised hire rates.

"Furthermore, there is an inconsistent approach to swimming lessons and pool hire agreements in our centres which the new club use agreement is designed to address.

"At Everybody we proudly deliver the ASA Learn to Swim Pathway. This all-inclusive programme takes the non-swimmer from his or her first splash to developing confidence and competence in the water, right through to competitive swimming.

"Each lesson follows the ASA framework; this is a tried and tested method which has been approved by the National Governing Body of swimming, the ASA.

"Everybody employs ASA Level 1 and 2 qualified swimming teachers to deliver our Learn to Swim Pathway and we are an ASA Affiliated Provider of swimming lessons. Our Everybody Academy also provides training for swimming teachers at level 1 and 2 and we have trained 60 swimming teachers since 2014 creating jobs and helping meet lesson demands.

"We have worked with the ASA and our club use agreement proposals are in line with common practice across the country.

"Although not all of our reasoning is based on financial pressure, it is worth highlighting recent and ongoing reinvestment into our centres and the savings we are making as a Trust for the community facilities we operate.

"On average there has been an investment of £3million per year across all leisure centres over the last three years, in total over £9.2million; with further planned investment from Cheshire East Council of £9million on a new pool at Congleton. A further £800k needs to be invested into our pools in Wilmslow, Nantwich and Macclesfield for improvements during 2016/17 and let's not forget the £15M+ invested into the new lifestyle centre in Crewe.

"Our savings to date of £2.1million per annum are helping finance this investment and any future surpluses we make are ploughed back into our centres too. As a charitable Trust we reinvest improving our centres and the lives of our community for the benefit of all our residents and customers.

"Our pools currently cost £250-300 per hour to operate and it is important the long term viability of pools is made a priority at a time when some local authorities are having to consider closing leisure facilities due to funding shortfalls and competing demands from other statutory services.

"Our aim is to increase participation in sport and provide healthy recreation across Cheshire East.

"There is currently a national decline in participation in swimming stopping swimming in the last decade (source: Sport England).

"To counter this decline, Everybody is offering unlimited free public swimming sessions to children learning to swim w ith us. This is to encourage families to swim together with 729,000 people and swim often and help children to improve on their swimming technique to progress through the Learn to Swim stages. We also provide concession rates with discounts of up to 40%.

"The new agreement with swimming clubs will enable us to provide clear pathways to competitive swimming, encouraging ongoing development in swimming at stages 8+ w ith a new sustainable partnership model.

"In return, we are providing clubs with increased pool time for competitive training and development, off-peak hire rates at half price (our pools are now open from 6am) and we are working with the ASA to find alternative models to grow and support non-competitive clubs.

"Opportunities for swimming club coaches to deliver lessons and integrate into the later stages of Everybody Swim stages are also being explored to provide continued employment for teachers and familiarity for learners.

"We have seen support from Cheshire East Council in our decisions and we are having positive discussions with the majority of clubs affected by these changes.

"We would like to reiterate that it is not the case we are seeking to close swimming clubs down. Rather we want to work with the clubs and the ASA to ensure they can continue to thrive and grow their membership.

"In summary, it is the aim of Everybody to change lives through healthy recreation and grow an ethical and sustainable business. The new club use agreement and our commitment to developing our Everybody SWIM offer will allow us improve the picture of swimming participation in Cheshire East, deliver a high standard of swimming lessons to children and adults and keep our swimming pools and leisure centres open to everyone."

Cheshire East Council, Everybody Sport & Recreation Trust, Wilmslow Leisure Centre, Wilmslow Scorpions