Swimming teachers fear for jobs over council plans

Councillors heard the private sector delivers 10,000 swimming lessons a year. Picture: Robert Perry
Councillors heard the private sector delivers 10,000 swimming lessons a year. Picture: Robert Perry
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PRIVATE swimming teachers have warned they could be forced out of business under consultants’ proposals for out-of-hours swim lessons in city schools to be run by Edinburgh Leisure.

A year-long review of council-owned sports facilities and services by Max Associates recommended the authority’s arms-length company which already operates pools and leisure centres across the city should also take over management of school sports facilities.

It also recommended “direct delivery of swimming lessons” to end “the effective subsidy to private sector competitors”.

But companies which provide lessons in school pools denied there was any subsidy and insisted they paid a commercial rate to hire the facilities.

Council chiefs considering the future of school sports facilities said there would be “room for everyone” after Edinburgh Leisure’s takeover.

Philip Smith, of Swim Easy, which has been running swimming lessons in city schools for more than 18 years, told the council’s policy and strategy committee: “Overall, the private sector companies have over 200 teaching staff and 50 office personnel. Most of these will lose their jobs if we are unable to run our own programme in future.”

He said the consultants’ claim there was a subsidy for private firms was “inaccurate”.

He said: “Edinburgh council submit a fee invoice to us on a monthly basis, which we pay. They determine the rate and we pay the rate. We receive no funding from any public sector body. We are entirely self-financing.”

In a letter to the committee, Gordon Henderson, of the Federation of Small Businesses, urged the council not to attack local businesses that provided local jobs and supported the local economy.

He said the private sector delivered 10,000 swimming lessons in Edinburgh annually, compared with 8000 by Edinburgh Leisure. He added: “The recommendation that the council’s own arms-length business should be the only one given access to use the city’s pools would represent an extremely worrying anti-business stance from the council.”

Conservative group leader Councillor Cameron Rose said the consultants’ recommendations would push out charitable and private users.

But Stephanie-Anne Harris, council’s head of sport, said although the consultants had taken a strong view that the council should make sure its facilities were used in its interests, officials were not pushing that recommendation.

She said: “Our report takes a step back from that. We would want to maintain that mixed economy. There is room for everyone, I think.”

The committee approved in principle the transfer of the management of school sports facilities to Edinburgh Leisure but agreed to a request from Councillor Rose to add a clause promising to ensure a “mixed economy of delivery”.

A further report on the details of how the new system will work is due in six months.