LATE night swimming is a “luxury” a council which is planning to reduce the opening hours of its leisure centres cannot afford, a councillor has said.
As part of budget plans to save £11.4 million in the upcoming financial year it is proposed to cut the opening hours of leisure centres, with a review of how, and when they are used, to shape what times they will open.
Monmouthshire County Council runs four leisure centres, in Abergavenny, Caldicot, Chepstow and Monmouth, all of which currently open until 10pm on week days and 6pm at weekends.
But the council’s Labour cabinet has proposed a review of opening hours as an alternative to closing some centres completely.
Cllr Sara Burch, cabinet member for communities, told a budget scrutiny committee: “The proposal is to reduce the opening hours of our leisure centres when we know they are very seldom used.
“I know some people are uncomfortable with that and enjoy a late night swim, I do myself, but keeping them open for fewer than 10 people in the last hour of the day is a luxury I think we can no longer afford.”
Cllr Burch also said it is planned to reduce the opening hours during the summer to reflect how the centres are used at different times of the year, with lighter evenings giving people more options to exercise outside rather than indoors.
It has also said closing pools at 9pm would affect less than one per cent of its total monthly visits during the summer.
The council is also planning an energy saving drive, which it says will help it reach its target of net zero carbon emissions by 2030, and save £772,000 in the coming financial year by reducing energy use across all of its properties.
That includes simple steps such as turning lights off as well as spending money on more LED lighting and solar panels.
The Mon Life service, which is responsible for the leisure centres, will also spend £56,000 on pool covers which will have to be used every night to retain heat in the swimming pools.
Service manager Ian Morrison said keeping the pools warmer will allow the council to reduce the overall temperature in the leisure centres.
He said around 75 per cent of the £600,000 increase in Mon Life’s £4.9 million budget is to deal with increased costs for heating the four swimming pools.
Mr Morrison told the committee he didn’t have figures for how long it will take to recoup the outlay on pool covers, in reduced energy fees, to hand but said it wouldn’t be very long due to rocketing energy bills.
As well as reducing leisure centre opening hours the budget has also proposed a reduction in the hours the council’s six community hubs in Abergavenny, Caldicot, Chepstow, Gilwern, Monmouth and Usk are open.
But cabinet member for equalities, Cllr Angela Sandles, said following talks with staff the hubs may be able to maintain their current opening hours due to reduced staffing.