New price changes at Sidmouth Swimming Pool will cost parents hundreds

Charissa Evens and her three-year-old son Ethan.

Charissa Evens and her three-year-old son Ethan. - Credit: Archant

A mum has hit out at new prices for children at Sidmouth Swimming Pool which could see parents have to fork out hundreds of pounds extra a year

Charissa Valentine has slammed the move, which she says will put pressure on families’ wallets.

New charges introduced at the beginning of May mean under-fives will no longer be able to swim for free and that youngsters, aged three and four, will now have to pay £2.65 a swim or more than £242 for an annual membership - working out at £20.61 a month.

LED Leisure, which runs the pool, has defended the price hike, saying it has been introduced to accommodate the Government’s new Living Wage and an increase in costs.

Mum-of-two Mrs Valentine was left shocked when a member of staff at the pool told her she needed to pay for her three-year-old son Ethan.

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She currently spends more than £550 on memberships for herself and her seven-year-old son Dylan, but the new charges mean her annual bill will now rise to more than £800. Mrs Valentine said there was no prior warning about the changes to the prices, adding: “This may not seem a huge issue, but given the issues of childhood obesity and the fact that we live by the sea and that it is such a vital skill, I think this is a cynical ploy by LED Leisure.

“I feel sorry for parents and grandparents who are struggling to make ends meet. What once may have been manageable could now be something they will not bother with.

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“A typical three-year-old’s temperament also means that, while one day they may stay in the pool for a good amount of time, there will be occasions when they might not be in the right frame of mind. People aren’t going to risk paying if that’s a possibility.

“I might feel less aggrieved if I saw the money being ploughed back into the facilities.

“However, the pool temperature fluctuates daily as do the showers. The place could do with a steam clean, whereas I have previously championed it as a local facility worth supporting.”

An LED Leisure spokeswoman said it fully supported the Government’s national Living Wage, which was one reason for the increase.

She added that there has also been a rise in prices from suppliers, who are facing similar wage increases and rises in fuel and utility costs.

The spokeswoman said introducing the price for three- and four-year-olds meant it did not have to increase the cost for all under-16s, for whom the membership cost has remained the same. The cost of swimming lessons has also remained the same.

The spokeswoman said free lessons are still offered to children below the age of three if their accompanying adult has a membership, and that the under-16 membership included 50 weeks of swimming lessons.

“Regarding facility improvements, we appreciate that the quality of changing facilities impacts heavily on customer satisfaction,” said the spokeswoman.

She added that, together with its council landlords in East Devon and South Somerset, LED Leisure had recently accessed grant and partner funding of more than £1million to help with improvements to the changing facilities in Exmouth and Yeovil, contributing more than £300,000 of its own funds. She said the pool temperature is regulated between 29.5C and 30C.

“Our efforts to access funds for improvements at our other pools will continue, although I am sure that you will appreciate that it would be unfeasible to fund improvements at all centres in one go,” said the spokeswoman.

“We hope that customers will understand the reasons for these increases, particularly as many of our prices have been held static or seen minimal increases for some time now.”

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