Free Charedi swim sessions are axed

Free swimming sessions for Salford's Charedi community are set to be scrapped as a result of government spending cuts.

Just a month ago, Charedi groups were celebrating a successful campaign for same sex sessions through Broughton's council-run Fit City centre. It was part of a nationally funded scheme offering free swimming for under-17s and over-60s.

The leisure centre had agreed extended hours to provide a weekly three-hour slot where the entire building of gyms and two pools would offer separate men's and women's sessions. Centre staff say around 250 people were filling the sessions, many of whom would normally be unable to pay for health and fitness facilities.

Salford councillor Peter Connor, who helped arrange the scheme with Charedi charity Interlink, says the council has agreed to fund free sessions across the city for the summer holidays.

"We are going to encourage as many people as possible, where we can within resources, but we are going to be limited with funds over the next year."

Interlink's Manchester director Nava Kestenbaum says that despite the loss of funding, the popularity of the scheme left her hopeful "the council will extend it to other Salford pools".

However, from August 29, the charge will be £1.50 for children and £3 for adults, prompting fears that large families will not be able to afford the sessions.

    Last updated: 4:15pm, July 22 2010