CHESTER children will miss out on free swimming sessions following a council decision to pull out of a national initiative worth nearly £300,000.
Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWAC) opted not to provide free swimming to under-16s through the Government scheme as it was deemed ‘not financially viable’.
But CWAC has promised to introduce its own scheme for youngsters.
A Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) spokesman said it was ‘disappointed’ by CWAC’s decision.
The council has decided to offer free swimming to over-60s through the national scheme, which began on April 1, and more than 3,000 people have benefited as a result.
But by choosing not to run the full scheme for young and old, the authority has missed out on funding of nearly £100,000 to improve pool provision, as well as the £191,105 allocated by the Government to cover free swimming for children.
CWAC spokesman Ian Callister said: “While the figures offered for funding were correct, we felt the deal offered by the Government to offer free swimming for 16s and under would not have offered value for money for taxpayers.
“Compensatory funding to offset the loss of income from the introduction of free swimming for under-16sŠ would have left the council with an annual deficit of £150,000, plus capacity issues within certain facilities.
“Government funding is guaranteed for only two years and consequently free swimming for under-16s after that period would cost the authority in the region of £350,000 a year.”
A DCMS spokesman said: “We are disappointed the council have been unable to make the scheme work.
“We have always been clear that this was a partnership with local authorities and they might have to find money from their own budgets or other sources to participate.”