NE Cambs MP Steve Barclay responds following outcry after swimming lessons ban
PUBLISHED: 11:16 27 August 2020 | UPDATED: 14:44 28 August 2020
MP Steve Barclay said he hopes “a sensible compromise can be achieved” in the wake of an outcry over the ban on swimming clubs teaching non-swimmers in Fenland.
The MP for NE Cambs and government minister has been in touch with Freedom Leisure, who operate Fenland’s three leisure centres with pools in March, Wisbech and Whittlesey, and Fenland District Council (FDC) about how they can help swimming clubs going forward.
Writing on social media, Mr Barclay said: “I have spoken with both the managing director of Freedom Leisure and officers at Fenland District Council to explore whether any compromise options might be available.
“Freedom Leisure tell me that, as a not for profit operator, they want to find a solution that retains the viability of local swimming clubs to coach whilst enabling them as the operator to provide teaching for beginners up to stage seven.
“They say they want swimmers to progress from their lessons onto coaching through the local clubs. However, that approach clearly has a material impact on the revenue of the clubs currently providing teaching to beginners, and on swimming time particularly for Manor Dolphins.”
Freedom Leisure said the decision to stop lessons for non-swimmers was triggered due to extra cleaning time between sessions following a review into their ‘learn to swim’ programme, even though an FDC spokesperson said a decision to end non-swimmer lessons was already planned.
When the announcement was made, Mark McGowen, president of March Marlins Swimming Club, said “it was a very sad day” and appealed to Mr Barclay and swimming’s governing bodies for help, while Jan French, deputy leader of FDC said she was “on the case.”
Mr Barclay said Freedom Leisure will look into what flexibility they can offer, such as extending opening hours to help reduce the impact on March Marlins, Wisbech Swimming Club and Manor Dolphins at Whittlesey.
He also mentioned that Cllr Chris Boden, leader of FDC, will work with Fenland’s swimming clubs on what next steps to take.
He said: “Their managing director, who covers 19 leisure centre partnerships, has agreed with me that his local team will explore what flexibility they could offer.
“This may be around an extension of opening hours, like on a Saturday or Sunday where a pool closing at 2pm would probably need just two staff in a duty manager and lifeguard to cover an extra hour until 3pm, at a marginal cost.
“The impact of these changes also varies between clubs as for some, the impact is revenue and others time.”
Mr Barclay added: “I will continue to encourage the operator to engage constructively with the clubs over the days ahead.”
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