Concerns have been raised over the cost of pool hire for swimming clubs being increased by 48 per cent since leisure centres reopened.
Swimming clubs that use pools which are operated by GLL for the council say that they have seen the cost leap from £13.50 per lane, per hour to £20 per lane, per hour since centres reopened following the coronavirus lockdown.
Amanda Pennington, who has been campaigning to get swimming pools reopened in Cornwall since lockdown, called on the council to help at a meeting of the customer and support services overview and scrutiny committee this morning.
But Cornwall Council Cabinet member for leisure, Mike Eathorne-Gibbons, said that it was a matter for GLL and not the council.
However he did add that GLL had agreed that it would reduce the cost to £15 per lane per hour if swimming clubs were able to use the pools at off-peak times.
Cornwall Council last month agreed a £6.1million “rescue package” for GLL and leisure centres in Cornwall so that they could reopen saying that the government had not provided any financial support for the sector.
The council package was made up of loans and grants and includes £4.2m which will have to be repaid.
Mrs Pennington welcomed the support from the council but said that swimming clubs which use pools had been hit by the price increase.
She explained that the cost of pool hire had already increase from £10.50 an hour for a lane to £13.50 last year and now had gone up to £20 since pools reopened.
She called on the council to step in and help saying that the prices were “not affordable”.
Cllr Eathorne-Gibbons said that it had been “extremely challenging” for leisure centres as they had lost income during lockdown and were now having to operate at reduced capacity but with higher costs to adhere to restrictions and guidelines.
He said: “Operators are advising that even with the relief package they are having to review their operating model and charges. This is an issue for the operators not the council.”
The Cabinet member said that GLL had benchmarked its normal rates by looking at prices charged across the south west and said that there had been a plan to increase pool hire charges to £16.50 per lane per hour in September.
However that had changed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Cllr Eathorne-Gibbons said: “GLL has proposed a short term increase to £20 per hour while restrictions are in place. This is not out of sync with other providers.”
However he said that GLL had offered a compromise with swimming clubs to reduce the charge to £15 per hour if the clubs use pools at off peak times as that would enable the operator to maximise capacity and income.
Cllr Eathorne-Gibbons said that GLL would be in contact with swimming clubs to discuss the proposals.
But he added that the charges would revert to the initially proposed £16.50 per lane per hour once Covid-19 restrictions have ended.
GLL swimming pool lane hire rises James Curry, head of service for social enterprise provider GLL, said: “Pre-Covid, GLL had been working with Cornwall ASA and Swim England to bring swimming club pool pricing in line with the true cost of providing the service.
“Until 2019, there had been no price rises for over sixyears. In 2019 the price per lane went up to £13.50 and was due to go up to £16.50 in September 2020 and £19.50 in 2021.
“During this Covid period, we are charging £20 per lane per hour. As and when the guidance changes and we return to some form of normality, we will of course continue to review pricing.
“With reduced capacities and therefore reduced income, GLL cannot afford to subsidise club swimming pool use during this period, when the company face increased costs.
“To clarify, with the Covid-safe measures in place, GLL has increased their cleaning regime, the pools are operating with higher levels of chemicals and currently operate on 100 per cent fresh air circulation, adding to our utility costs.”