Local dad-of-nine has been ‘priced out’ by abrupt changes to swimming pool costs, reports Victoria Munro, Local Democracy Reporter
A Chingford father says recent price hikes at Chingford Leisure Centre mean he can no longer afford to take his children swimming.
Last September, Waltham Forest Council stopped offering children with a membership free swimming during term time, as well as increasing the price of membership itself.
Gavin Goldhill, who is a father of nine young children, could previously spend £1 a year per child on memberships to take them swimming for “several hours” each weekend.
When he returned after lockdown, however, he was told he would need to pay £2.20 per child and £5 himself for an hour in the pool at off-peak times.
The council’s cabinet member for culture, Paul Douglas, said the change was prompted by “significant budget pressures” but that the pool still offered “a very cheap membership”.
Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Gavin said: “We used to go quite often but now they have priced us out. I have had to freeze my membership because I can’t afford to use it.
“It’s quite a hefty uplift and this was a silent cutback, no one said anything. It was [at the previous pricing] for at least four years.
“It just seems like a kick in the teeth that the children and families have to suffer. My daughter was crying when she realised what was being said.
“We used to go two or three times a week or a couple hours after school or spend four or five hours there on Saturday or Sunday. Now we can’t do that, it’s in and out.
“During the week they have got far less people swimming in there but still the same amount of staff.”
In addition to restricting free swimming, the council also now charges £3 a year for a concessionary child membership and £5.15 for a regular child membership.
Cllr Douglas said these memberships are still “very cheap” and that the centre continues to offer free swimming during school holidays, as well as discounts on many term time activities.
He said: “Waltham Forest is one of only a few local authorities that still offer free swimming, this shows how the council still values this activity for residents.
“This change was introduced due to significant budget pressures in the Sports and Leisure service and to ensure that we can continue to provide this service to all who use it.”