ELLESMERE Port children will miss out on free swimming sessions following a council decision to launch its own scheme rather than take up a national initiative worth nearly £300,000.
Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWAC) opted not to provide free swimming to under-16s outside school hours through the Government scheme as it was deemed ‘not financially viable’.
CWAC will launch its own scheme for youngsters to coincide with half-term next week.
Its new programme will entitle under-16s to swim for free for two hours a week at council-owned pools during school holidays, apart from Christmas.
Sure Start and West Cheshire Primary Care Trust are financially supporting schemes which include teenage mothers, young children and their families and children in care participating for free.
Some parent and toddler groups and families with young children will also receive free swimming vouchers via children’s centres.
The council is offering free swimming to over-60s through the national scheme, which began on April 1, and more than 3,000 people have benefited.
But by choosing not to run the full Government scheme for young and old, the authority has missed out on funding of nearly £100,000 to improve pool provision, as well as £191,105 allocated by the Government to cover free swimming for children.
CWAC spokesman Ian Callister said: “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 would have left the council with an annual deficit of £150,000, plus capacity issues within certain facilities.”
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.”