Sinking feeling

PUBLISHED: 11:34 19 June 2008 | UPDATED: 13:22 06 May 2010

SIR, — I was interested to read Mr Phil van Tromp s letter (Herts Advertiser, June 12) about the state of our swimming facilities in the light of the Government s initiative to provide free swimming for all. The Government has announced that the over 60s

SIR, - I was interested to read Mr Phil van Tromp's letter (Herts Advertiser, June 12) about the state of our swimming facilities in the light of the Government's initiative to provide free swimming for all.

The Government has announced that the over 60s will be among the first to benefit from free swimming. St Albans District Council has shown since 2006 that, as far as they are concerned, the over 60s do not even warrant the concessions from which they had benefitted for several years. When the new Leisure Card was issued, our pensioner discount at Townsend School pool disappeared.

I asked why we no longer had a discount and was told that the council had told Leisure Connection that we were no longer a priority group. We were told that we could swim with a 50-plus discount. This discount was given originally to those who paid a membership to the Club 50.

Not only were we left with a lesser concession, but the times at which we could swim were limited, often in deep water only and sometimes when small children were using the shallow end of the pool and the one communal changing room.

I wrote several times to Cllr Sheila Burton to ask why our concession had disappeared and why those of 50-plus warranted a concession when they were either affluent enough not to need to work or able to earn and thereby to pay the normal adult price for a swim. She initially replied to my letters but never replied to my questions.

Leisure Connection were very reasonable and included more swimming sessions at Townsend Pool in the 50-plus category. Then the council decided to discriminate even further against the senior swimmers. If we bought a pre-paid card for 10 swims, the cost per swim was at a discount. These cards were discontinued but when they reappeared, every category of swimmer, whether they were residents of St Albans or not, received a 20 per cent discount, except the 50-plus group.

Once again I contacted Leisure Connection for an explanation. They assured me that they had been told by the council that the 50-plus were a "protected group" and that they were not able to change the cost of a swim for them. On April 14, 2007, I wrote to Portfolio Holder Cllr Burton and pointed out that by not increasing the cost of our swim by 3.5 per cent, as had happened to all other groups, and by then not giving us the chance of a 20 per cent discount for pre-paid swims, we were the losers yet again. I asked for an explanation of how one could possibly be "protected" against a discount. She did not reply and my second letter, sent in July 2007, is also still waiting for an answer.

Now we have another problem with our swimming at Townsend pool. There is a shortage of lifeguards so the times at which we can swim have been reduced to two sessions a week, one of which is for ladies only. Since the organisation of our swimming has come under Bricket Wood Sports Centre and not London Colney, we have no communication from Leisure Connection at all and often turn up for a swim to find that the pool is closed because there are not enough lifeguards.

No doubt eventually someone will look at the number of swimmers using Townsend pool and declare that it is under-used and therefore not viable.

I shall be very interested to hear what plans the council has to accommodate the free over-60s swimmers if the Government's plan has to be followed.

As far as they are concerned, we were put on the "don't-matter" list years ago.

JUNE TIDMARSH,

The Ridgeway, St Albans.

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