The reforming of a popular scheme offering free swimming to children under 16 years old on Ynys Môn could have very significant implications for leisure services on the island, Plaid Cymru Assembly Member Rhun ap Iorwerth has warned.
A new free swimming scheme is set to replace the present one, but it will see Anglesey’s budget for the activity cut in half, leaving a five-figure black hole in the County Council’s leisure budget, at a time when finances are already stretched significantly due to cuts.
The island’s AM Rhun ap Iorwerth raised this matter in the Assembly chamber on Tuesday afternoon in a question to First Minister Mark Drakeford, outlining the situation in Anglesey and how Local Authorities across the country have used grants such as this to help balance the books in a time of austerity.
— Rhun ap Iorwerth (@RhunapIorwerth) September 17, 2019
Mr ap Iorwerth said:
“There are significant implications regarding the current scheme coming to an end. Rightly or wrongly, this scheme had become a key part of how Local Government pays for its leisure services because of the unsustainable cuts that have been made to their overall budgets in recent years.
“The budget for free swimming in Ynys Môn under the reformed scheme would see the Council receiving only half of the current funding and they simply can’t fill that gap of some £30,000.
“We have to see a commitment from Welsh Government to deliver extra finance for Local Government in real terms for the coming year across the board, but on free swimming in particular it is important to consider the additional value of such funding in terms of the health benefits lessening future strain on the NHS and what impact this decision has on future generations.
“The First Minister said that four new schemes will be taking place on Anglesey as a result of this reform and I will be keeping a close eye on what benefits these new initiatives bring to the island.”