City swimming pools feel the chill of 40% cuts

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THE timetables of two Sheffield swimming pools are being reviewed to reflect big cuts in council funding.

Some public swimming sessions could be cut at Heeley Baths in Broadfield Road at weekend and at Graves Tennis and Leisure Centre at Norton during the week as managers examine ways of making savings and generating extra income.

More swimming lessons and private hire are being considered, although customers are being told no changes will be made until public consultation ends on April 14.

It is part of a scrutiny of centres run by Sheffield International Venues on behalf of the council. The main casualty will be Stocksbridge Leisure Centre if a growing campaign to save it is unsuccessful. A petition was handed to the council yesterday.

SIV said this week that it was committed to keeping open both Heeley and Graves.

But director of operations Lorenzo Clark said timetables were being reviewed “as part of a wide evaluation of our activity programme across all venues”.

He added: “We would like to reassure everyone that any proposed alterations to public swimming sessions will be subject to a period of consultation with employees and customers and no decisions will be made until this consultation period is over. Over the next three years we are facing a 40% reduction in our funding from the city council and we have to make savings across the company.

“We are committed to the continued operation of both Heeley and Graves, but we must take appropriate steps to reduce the levels of subsidy required to operate these facilities and work within the budgetary levels that the current financial challenge dictates.”

“The proposed alterations would also continue to provide our customers the opportunity to participate in general swimming sessions across the two venues, seven days a week. We are dedicated to the provision of sport and physical activity across all our venues for the benefit of the health of Sheffield residents and we will ensure this, as ever, remains a priority.”

However, one swimmer said: “Heeley Pool have a notice up saying they are going to shut to the public at weekends - but that is the most convenient time for most people to swim. It means you won’t be able to turn up and swim there any more at weekends. Only private bookings and swimming lessons will take place.”

The council has given Stocksbridge campaigners an extra month to examine ways of keeping open the leisure centre

But local Labour MP Angela Smith said while this was welcome, “I do not believe it is long enough for local people to come up with a thought through local solution to keeping this valuable community resource open in the future.

“Already local people and organisations are thinking outside the box and are considering innovative local options. However, these need time to come to fruition. It is completely unfair of the city council to expect that a fully costed business plan for the centre can be written in the short period of time being offered by them.”

The council is working on a deal for a replacement pool in the north of Sheffield and has £5m of Government cash to upgrade Graves, including a new pool, as part of the Olympic legacy.