OAPs claim they are being forced from the pool

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WATER-loving pensioners have blasted council plans to charge for a ‘free’ swims scheme saying it will force them to give up the sport they love.

East Dunbartonshire Council sent letters to its Passport to Leisure (PTL) customers earlier this month telling them swimming charges will be introduced on Friday, April 1 as part of its budget savings.

PTL previously offered groups, including pensioners and the disabled, concessionary rates and free swims at Kirkintilloch Leisure Centre, Bishopbriggs Leisuredrome and the Allander Sports Centre in Milngavie for a £10 annual fee.

However, the rise means these groups will now have to pay £1.50 to take a dip, with the price of their PTL pass also going up by 20p.

Bishopbriggs resident Gordon McKenzie, who swims six times a week, said: “It is going to cost me at least £200 a year to keep swimming and I can’t afford that. Putting £200 on to a fixed income is just not on.

“The council is cutting off its nose to spite its face. The scheme is supposed to be about keeping healthy.”

Margaret Sheraton (62), from Kirkintilloch, said: “I am so disgusted. I don’t mind paying my way, but the council brought in this scheme to help people get more involved and to keep fit and active. Now they are taking it away.

“I went into my PTL contract with the council in October and they are not honouring what I paid for.”

Colin Russell, whose father is partially sighted and suffers from arthritis, said: “This is a massive increase with little or no notice. We are trying to encourage the elderly to keep as active as possible, both physically and socially. They won’t go to the pool if the prices are put up.

The PTL increases are part of a series of price rises across the council’s leisure services.

A spokesperson for the council said: “From Friday, April 1 2011, people in East Dunbartonshire who are members of the Council’s Passport to Leisure (PTL) Scheme will no longer be able to swim for free in the council’s three pools.

“The decision to reintroduce a concessionary charge of £1.50 per session was made last month when the council budget was set, amidst the most challenging set of financial circumstances ever to face local government.

“The flat rate of £1.50 still represents excellent value for money for PTL holders as it is a saving of 40 per cent on the adult swim rate of £2.50.

“There is already a multi-use ticket for PTL swims which gives a 20 per cent discount.

“This costs £12 for 10 swims which means customers get 10 swims for the price of eight.

“Also, those individuals who are referred under our GP referral scheme for health reasons receive a 50 per cent discount on the adult rate for swimming, which also equates to £1.25 a swim.

“Membership of that scheme is for one year after which individuals are directed towards the PTL scheme if eligible.”