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Pensioners outraged as Barkingside swimming pool boss dismisses price hike complaint

PUBLISHED: 07:00 11 June 2019 | UPDATED: 13:14 11 June 2019

Pensioners Len Anness and Alec Kushway are angered by their Early Bird membership of the Fullwell Cross Swimming Pool increasing by 28 per cent. Picture: Ken Mears

Pensioners Len Anness and Alec Kushway are angered by their Early Bird membership of the Fullwell Cross Swimming Pool increasing by 28 per cent. Picture: Ken Mears

Archant

Pensioners outraged by a hike in the cost of their preferred membership at a Barkingside swimming pool have had their complaint rejected by the charity's chief executive.

Redbridge Vision, the council's leisure arm, raised the monthly cost of its five-day senior Early Bird Pass for Fullwell Cross Leisure Centre from £13 per month to £16 last month.

This membership allows people to swim between 7.30am and 9am, Monday to Friday, which pensioners say is more than adequate.

Marios Michael, 65, is among at least 31 swimmers who had opted for the five-day membership - the annual price of which has been hiked by 28 per cent, from £160 to £204.

The cost of a seven-day membership for 12 months has also been increased, but by less than one per cent - from £238 to £240.

It's understood that the new prices will allow swimmers to have more flexible access to the pool.

But Mr Michael said members are happy with the current arrangements and other time slots do not work well for elderly residents.

"We are happy with how the membership is; we don't want things to change," he said. "Why do I have to pay more for what I don't want?"

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In emails seen by the Recorder, the chief executive, Iain Varah, said he would not be upholding the complaint, despite recognising that the price hike would result in members paying 28 per cent more, which was not the "equivalent of the current early bird prices" as had previously been promised.

Mr Varah apologised to Mr Michael for incorrectly stating that the new prices would be equivalent to current prices and telling swimmers that there would be no increase.

"They have lied to pensioners to get more money out of them," Mr Michael said. "Some people can't afford to go swimming anymore."

Mr Michael told the Recorder he is also dismayed by the chief executive's comments about people aged over 60 having a "greater means to pay" than other members of the community.

Mr Varah said: "For many years and as a local arrangement, we've offered huge concessions of up to 85 per cent for swimmers over 60 holding an Early Bird Pass at Fullwell Leisure Centre.

"Given the budget pressures we are facing, we've had to make the tough decision to standardise our pricing for swimming at the leisure centres we run in Redbridge.

"Whilst I appreciate existing early bird holders will now face an increase in swimming fees, the uplift equates to an extra 10p per swim - from up to as little as 66p to 76p per swim - which is still cheaper than the majority of neighbouring boroughs, many of whom do not offer concessions at all.

"The existing early bird holders have also been ring-fenced so that their annual increase to the new swimming fees are spread over three years to minimise the increase.

"Vision do appreciate that the swim membership is £2.33 per month more than Mr Michael was paying previously, however this does still offer significant discounts on the pay and play price of £2.90 per swim for those that swim regularly.

"As a gesture of goodwill to Mr Michael we have offered the first month of an annual swim direct debit membership free of charge which as yet he has neither accepted or refused."

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