Opening up swimming baths and other school sports facilities to the wider public is a no-brainer.
Everybody wins on this one. We, the general public, get access to more local sports facilities. No more – or at least less often – will we find we can’t go for a swim because the local pool is closed for club training and the journey across town to the next nearest baths is impractical. Schools benefit too because they make a little extra money.
And there’s future proofing there too. With the city’s population expected to grow dramatically in the coming years, there will certainly be more demand on leisure services, just like we are seeing growing pressure on schools and GP surgeries. The only wonder is that this wasn’t done years ago. Arrangements like this have been in place in other parts of the UK for many years, although often not on the same scale as now being proposed in the Capital.
It has always been daft that expensive facilities like swimming pools and sports halls were left idle most evenings and weekends. In the current climate of cost-cutting, it is clearly an unaffordable luxury. Handing the running of these facilities over to Edinburgh Leisure makes perfect sense.
It is true that many school sports halls and pools are currently available to public bookings.
But most of us don’t even know that these facilities exist in our neighbourhoods unless we happen to have kids at school. The facilities don’t just need to be there, they have to be professionally managed and properly promoted, and that is not the job of teachers and school managers.
The current Labour-SNP coalition deserves credit for finally grasping the nettle even if it has taken a financial crisis for that to happen.
We were promised innovation rather than simply cost-cutting as the city balances its books. This is a good example and it is very welcome.