DAVID Bellak’s letter regarding the 33 per cent increase in price rises for pensioners using Edinburgh Leisure’s (EL) facilities (14 January) highlights a worrying trend in sports provision in the capital city.
Crèche facilities at leisure centres have been withdrawn. Last spring, Edinburgh Leisure axed free swimming for primary-aged children.
Since April 2010, Edinburgh schools no longer use EL services. Why? Last weekend Leith Waterworld, Edinburgh’s only leisure pool, closed because the savings would contribute to the bailout of the £7 million over-budget refurbishment of Royal Commonwealth Pool (RCP).
In doing so, Edinburgh Leisure disregarded one of the requirements of its funding agreement with the council to undertake an equalities assessment into how any closure might affect certain user groups, in Leith Waterworld’s case specifically the under-fives, children attending on their own and the disabled.
Increasingly we are seeing an arms-length company, in receipt of some £9m of public money a year, acting like a corporate business, prioritising elite sporting venues (Ratho, the RCP) at the expense of facilities suitable for all of our community.
In 2010-11 the company reported a surplus of more than £5m. The previous chief executive left with a £180,000 golden goodbye.
Recently the company has undergone a change management programme entitled “Must Win Battles”.
Given that one in four children in Scotland leave primary school without being able to swim, given the recent statistics regarding child poverty across the city (an average of one in five with nearly one in three children in Leith living in poverty) it seems somewhat debatable how Edinburgh Leisure is living up to its own marketing strapline: “Inspiring Edinburgh to be a more active and healthy city”.