The Department of Education and Children has met with regional swimming pool boards to discuss ways to cut costs to the taxpayer, but pools will not be closed.
As the Examiner previously reported, the government currently subsidises the pools – in Ramsey, Peel and Castletown – to the tune of almost £1.5m a year and says this is ‘no longer sustainable’.
Arrangements for the National Sports Centre in Douglas are separate.
After a meeting with the regional pool boards, a spokesperson for the DEC said: ‘In a positive first meeting, initial discussions took place on a range of issues such as exploring shared maintenance, joint purchasing of materials and exploring harmonisation of staff contracts across all the regional pools.
‘There were also discussions, which centred on the importance of these pools for health and wellbeing and the island’s early intervention strategy, designed to keep both the young and the more elderly healthy.
‘This draft strategy, along with a separate presentation on the costs incurred by each pool, will now be sent to each of the relevant pool boards for discussion.
‘The department has also offered to attend the next pool board meetings to discuss initial thoughts and ideas, plus answer any questions based upon the two presentations sent.’
Western Swimming Pool Board administrator Melanie Jansen said: ‘The meeting with the DEC was open, honest and positive in outlook.
‘We were reassured that the government does not intend to close any of the pools and that staff should not be fearful about losing their jobs.
‘Our board is committed to working closely with the DEC, the NSC and the other regional pools to explore the options and ideas for further cost savings and additional income streams.
‘Swimming pools operate with significant fixed costs and in order to continue to provide an affordable service to the public, the DEC sponsors the operation of the island’s pools. We are aware of the current financial situation the government is facing with the VAT shortfall.
‘We understand that we have a part to play in trying to reduce the cost to government of the provision of pools and for several months now we have been undertaking an ongoing cost reduction and revenue generation exercise at our pool.
‘We would like to encourage the public to make use of the island’s pools.
‘The summer is quieter but there are swimming lessons, courses and many activities still on offer. Considering the population size of the Isle of Man, we are extremely fortunate to have such excellent facilities in place, please support them.’
Adrian Cowin, chairman of the Southern Swimming Pool, said: ‘The meeting was a very useful briefing session which helped allay some of the worries we initially had. It was a useful and open meeting.
‘For example, without giving too much away, sharing resources is one thing we looked at. At the moment things like chemicals are ordered individually by each pool, by simply bulk ordering for all the pools together we can achieve a discount. Relatively small steps like that can make quite useful savings.’
Northern Pool Board representative Norman Morrey said: ‘It was quite a positive meeting. They said they weren’t in the process of closing the pools which was good news. There was nothing controversial really, talks about more co-operation. Some of the £1.5m mentioned relates to loans, some things which are beyond our control.’