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U16s swimming campaign gathers pace

PUBLISHED: 10:32 02 April 2010 | UPDATED: 22:01 07 July 2010

A CAMPAIGN for the introduction of free swimming for all under 16s in Breckland has gathered pace with more than 1,000 people signing a petition.

A CAMPAIGN for the introduction of free swimming for all under 16s in Breckland has gathered pace with more than 1,000 people signing a petition.

The battle, launched by Labour parliamentary candidate for south west Norfolk, Peter Smith, was instigated by a group of parents struggling to pay for their children to go swimming.

It also has the support of 200 people signing up to a group on social networking site Facebook.

Mr Smith said that since the swimming initiative was launched by the government, a number of Norfolk councils have offered free swimming for those aged over 60 and under 16 and taken advantage of a subsidy available from the government.

“It makes no sense to exclude youngsters from this scheme,” he added.

“Indeed, it is vital to concentrate on establishing healthy lifestyles for the young.

“It gives them something positive to do without having to make yet more financial demands on already hard stretched parents.

“Research has shown that by raising usage, the pools can actually increase their profits.”

Breckland Council currently offers free swimming to those over 60, but not those under 16. South Norfolk Council and North Norfolk Council also do not offer free swimming for under 16s.

A spokesman for Breckland Council said: “The council fully supports the principle of free swimming for under 16s but in practice it isn't possible.

“The level of government funding would not have covered our current usage by under 16s, and the increase in take up was impossible to predict.

“Despite the government subsidy, taxpayers would have been left out of pocket to make up the cost of the scheme. We have offered free swimming for over 60s because the cost is fully covered by the government grant and in consequence there is no additional expense to local taxpayers.”

Thetford parent Justina Wing, who has youngsters aged five, four and one, is backing the petition. She said: “I cannot afford to take my children swimming regularly at Thetford's Waterworld pool.

“If I lived in Bury St Edmunds I could pay £2 per child and they could swim as often as they liked. But for somebody like me who doesn't drive, this option is very difficult as I cannot afford the bus fare for us all on a regular basis.

“I know of many local mums who are in the same boat as me.”

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