Outraged parents are signing a petition to protest against an “unfair” price hike in children’s swimming lessons at Linslade’s Lifestyles@Tiddenfoot.
The online campaign has already reached nearly 500 signatures since its launch yesterday (March 19) when parents say they received an email from Stevenage Leisure Limited (SLL) to notify them that their monthly direct debit payments would be increasing.
The message informed parents that as of April 1, a 30 minute group lesson for one child would increase from £22.50 (per month) to £29.60 - a rise that families say will stretch parents’ budgets too far and prevent children from learning an essential life skill.
Mum Claire Shipp, 40, who started the petition, claimed: “I was on social media sites and saw the number of parents complaining about it. I want Tiddenfoot to know how many people are unhappy.
“There are no outside club’s using the centre for children’s classes anymore, so there’s no alternative - you feel like you are being held to ransom.
“This is a huge and unacceptable increase of 30 per cent and there has been no explanation to justify it.
“The swimming teachers are great - I want to make that point - but the facilities there are below standard.
“The changing rooms are dirty, there are not enough showers, and the classes are overcrowded.
“There is a private gym nearby - Liscombe Park, but lessons there are £39 per month.
“You spend ages on a waiting list to get into Tiddenfoot and then you are treated like this.”
Another parent called Tracey told the LBO: “What was an expense of £45 a month for my two children to swim has now increased to £59.20.
“A friend of mine has three children and she will be paying £90 per month. She has a third child discount given to her, but her third child fees are going up from £18.50 to £23!
“When I asked this morning why this price increase was coming in, I was told it was to bring the centres all into line, as they had found that there was a huge difference in prices throughout the group.
“However, this is obviously not correct because a friend of mine was told by Houghton Regis Leisure Centre that it will change to just £25 per month for her child’s classes from April 1.
“Also, we have to pay £3 for a badge and certificate when they pass a level all and all we get given for free is a plastic, coloured hat! And if I want to take them swimming at the weekend then I as a parent still have to pay, so what are the benefits of this price change? Nothing - it’s just greed!”
She added: “This is something I feel passionate about, because it is a life skill every child should be able to learn without it costing more than most gym memberships.”
Another reader claimed: “I rang the general manager last night who said that they were going to make the changing rooms a bit cleaner and that there hadn’t been an increase in price for two years.
“Actually, the price increased by 10 per cent this time last year from £20.50 to £22.50, Now it has risen again to £29.60.
“This is a council owned facility run by SLL. There should be a duty by the council to ensure that affordable swimming lessons are available for our younger children.”
A Central Bedfordshire Council spokeswoman, said: “Stevenage Leisure Limited, our contractor, has been contacting customers with advance notice of the price changes.
“The price increase brings the swimming lessons at Tiddenfoot in line with our other swimming pools in Central Bedfordshire which are all taught by qualified staff and meet national standards. The only exception is for Houghton Regis, where the price is slightly less to reflect the fact that there is a smaller pool at this site.
“The price increase equates to just £1.77 extra per week, this includes free swimming at any time and the contractor is also providing an online system which will allow parents to monitor their child’s progress.
“We do offer concessionary prices for those on low incomes, and also a special first year transitional price for those learners who are moving over from the swimming club lessons.”