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Unlucky dips

PUBLISHED: 17:23 03 September 2008 | UPDATED: 10:03 23 August 2010

IMPROVEMENTS to swimming pools will be blocked if the council has to spend £150,000 on a government Olympics initiative. Mike Snelling, leader of Gravesham Borough Council, has slammed the government for failing to fund free swimming schemes for the over

IMPROVEMENTS to swimming pools will be blocked if the council has to spend £150,000 on a government Olympics initiative.

Mike Snelling, leader of Gravesham Borough Council, has slammed the government for failing to fund free swimming schemes for the over-60s and under-16s, due to start next year.

He claims the government's decision to part-fund the schemes could end up costing the council more than £150,000 and may scupper the possibility of improving pools at the borough's two leisure centres, Cygnets in Northfleet and Cascades in Gravesend.

Mr Snelling said: "The idea is great. Swimming is a healthy and enjoyable pursuit which deserves encouragement. But the government is fond of making dramatic, headline-grabbing announcements and then not giving local councils the wherewithal to carry them out."

As the three-year scheme, unveiled in June, is being rolled out, final details reveal the government is not fully funding its idea.

Mr Snelling added: "Councils are expected to do more with less and the ability to raise more money is even more tightly restricted. And, when councils cannot deliver all the goodies promoted in Whitehall we carry the can locally."

A Department for Communities Media and Sport spokesperson said: "We hope authorities will get behind the offer and realise the opportunities it presents, even if they do have to meet some costs.

"Increased usage of pool facilities not only makes for healthier communities but also presents opportunities for pools to increase revenue through additional retailing."

If the council decides it cannot afford to adopt the scheme, it will not then be able to access capital funds to improve the pools at Cygnets, in Old Perry Street, and Cascades, in Thong Lane.

Mr Snelling fumed: "This is the most cynical part of it. The government says we have to pay the difference or we can't even bid for the money to make our facilities better.

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