Top swimmers Jo Jackson, Mark Foster and Heather Frederiksen back
£140 million initiative
OVER a thousand swimming pools run by almost 300 local
councils will offer free swimming from 1 April 2009 for people aged
60 and over, or 16 and under as well - delivering on a Government
promise to help get two million people more active by the time
London hosts the Olympics and Paralympics in 2012.
Four out of every five local councils in England have signed up to
provide free swimming for over 60s, with more than 200 offering it
too for young people. Twenty million people are eligible to swim for
free, using pools in other areas if their own council is not
participating in the scheme.
The £140 million Government initiative includes £60 million in
funding to modernise existing swimming facilities or build new ones.
Today Andy Burnham, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport,
announced that 5 facilities in the North West will receive grants
worth nearly £1.5 million in 2009/10. The grants will mean new
or revamped pools in the North West, with the biggest award, worth
over £600,000, going to Ashton Leisure Centre in Wigan. Full details
of the awards can be found at:-
Andy Burnham said:- "This is a landmark moment in our bid to
build a healthier and more active nation. It is real evidence of our
ambition to use the Olympic and Paralympic Games to lift sport in
this country. It is also the day when London 2012 made a real
difference on the ground, and to people up and down the country.
We have worked with local councils of all political persuasions to
seize the opportunity - and many of them are joining us in making a
significant financial contribution to ensure its success. This
scheme has caught the mood of the times. It will help young and old
keep active and save cash. It is our hope that this is just the
beginning and that in time free swimming becomes the norm. This
investment in the bricks and mortar of sports facilities in the
North West shows just how serious we are about leaving a sporting
legacy from the 2012 Games right across the country. I congratulate
all the successful councils for their efforts to secure this
investment for local people."
The actor and comedian David Walliams, who swam the English Channel
for charity in 2006, is also backing the free swimming initiative:-
"Swimming has been a real passion of mine since I took it up as a
small child. But I was really jumping in the deep end when I swam
the English Channel for Sport Relief, fitting training in between
performances on the road of Little Britain Live. I hope that by
making swimming free for so many in this country we will encourage
people to find the time to swim. Just a few lengths is a really
great way of getting active and staying healthy. I am right behind
this initiative and I hope that millions of people will grab the
opportunity and take the plunge."
In total 288 councils across England (81% of those eligible) will be
offering free swimming from 1 April for the over-60s. And 207 local
authorities (equivalent to 58%) will also be providing it for
children and young people aged 16 and under.
This represents a dramatic increase in the number of councils
offering some form of free swimming. Until now only about 10
have offered any year-round free access.
Key details of the scheme:-
► More than £31 million is going in the first year to local councils
to help meet the cost of providing free access to pools during
standard swimming sessions - and millions more will ensure a second
year of free swimming in 2010/11;
► Councils that are providing free swimming for both age groups have
already been allocated £10 million to improve their local
► A £50 million capital fund is being made available to councils to
modernise existing facilities or help build new ones in 2009/10 and
2010/11. The first grants of £19.2 million are announced today for
52 projects - with the biggest awards of over £1 million going to
improved or new facilities in the London boroughs of Southwark and
Harrow, and Leicestershire, Calderdale, Nottingham and Waveney.
A national network of swimming experts is being recruited to work
with participating councils to promote interest in swimming and
► One hundred thousand free swimming lessons are being offered to
► Extra funding within the overall funding package is being promised
to participating councils, including as a reward to those with the
best record in developing the scheme and making an impact in their
► Local councils will be eligible to seek London 2012's
'Inspire' mark, as recognition of the impact of their
schemes in producing a lasting legacy from hosting the Olympic and
Paralympic Games in 2012;
► The initiative is guaranteed to run for at least two years - the
period covered by the Government's current spending review.
Alan Johnson, Secretary of State for Health, said:- "Swimming
is fun and it is very good for you - it is one of the best exercises
for the whole body. I urge new swimmers and those who have not swum
for a while to head down to their local pool and swim for free.
Whether you are 16 or 60, if you eat well and move more, you can
live longer, healthier and happier lives."
Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families
said:- "I am delighted that children across the country will
be able to benefit from free swimming. We have invested £30 million
over the next two years to rebuild or refurbish school swimming
pools because swimming lessons are compulsory in primary schools and
we want every child to be able to swim well by the time they are 11
years old. School and youth sport has never been so well funded or
in such a better shape which means young people are being given the
chance to really show their potential, and this is a great position
to be in ahead of the 2012 Olympics."
James Purnell, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, is also
backing the initiative:- "Swimming is an excellent way to keep
fit and healthy in later life and that is why the DWP is
contributing £22m towards the Government's free swimming initiative.
I know many over 60s enjoy making a splash in their local pool, and
now I hope that millions more will be able to take the plunge."
Communities and Local Government Secretary Hazel Blears said:-
"I am delighted that nearly 300 councils have taken the plunge
and dipped into the Government funding, and in some cases their own
pool of resources, to offer free swimming to their local
communities. Swimming is a great way for people of all ages to keep
fit and healthy - so I would encourage all those 16 and under and
over 60 who will now qualify to swim for free to dive in and make
the most of this valuable opportunity. And I look forward to seeing
more councils sign up to this exciting new scheme."
Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell said:- "From tomorrow around 20
million people will be able to take a dip without dipping into their
pocket. That's a real Olympic legacy that will play a big part in
persuading two million more people to get active by 2012. With stars
like Rebecca Adlington and Joanne Jackson making real waves in
international competition and the Olympics around the corner, this
is the perfect time to start opening up the country's pools for
David Sparkes, Chief Executive of the ASA, swimming's governing
body, said:- "The investment of £140m in free swimming affords
us with a massive opportunity and one the ASA is determined to
capitalise on. We will help shape the Free Swimming initiative by
working with local authorities in ways which are proven to get more
people to take to the pool, stay in the pool and have more fun being
more active. This will be the first time that there has been a
national structure to share best practice on how to deliver swimming
and it will provide exciting opportunities to those councils that
have opted in. However to succeed it is essential we change the
customer experience so more people swim more often. We can only do
this by working with councils to change the public perception of
swimming and move towards placing the customer at the heart of
everything we do."