Southwark Council has finally unveiled the details of its ‘free swim and gym’ pledge, over two years after it was first proposed in the run up to the 2014 local elections.
From this July, Southwark residents will be able to use the gyms and swimming pools at all of the borough’s leisure centres for free on Fridays and from 2pm on weekends.
Councillor Barrie Hargrove, Southwark cabinet member for public health, parks and leisure said: “Introducing a free swim and gym scheme for residents was a fantastic way of tackling the cost barrier holding the majority of people back.
“It was always going to be challenging, especially in the face of rising council cuts, but investing in the health of our residents is vital. I am proud to say that we are still on track for delivering this unique council offer to residents from July, thanks to some excellent work on our new leisure contract that means the scheme will not cost the council much needed funds.”
However, Southwark Lib Dems have accused the council of offering a slimmed-down version of their initial pledge.
Councillor Lisa Rajan, Liberal Democrat Leisure Spokesperson: “Southwark Labour seems to have a different definition of ‘for all’ than most people. Despite their election promises, free swimming and gym will actually only be on offer one day a week and weekend afternoons. The council admits these times are when it’s best for them, not residents.
“That’s not much help for people who work late or at weekends, or for people who have children or other care responsibilities. Such restricted hours won’t help those want to get fit very much either. Labour didn’t mention anything about limiting it to certain days or hours before the election. Residents will feel let down.”
In response, Cllr Hargrove said: “It is pleasing to see that the Lib Dems are now committed to Free Swim and Gym in our borough. I commend the FSG scheme for all our residents to get underway from July.”