Free swimming at Lewisham pools for the next 15 years

Lewisham Council writes:

Lewisham residents aged 16 and under, 60 and over and those who are disabled and receive benefits will continue to swim for free at all Lewisham Council run swimming pools for the next 15 years.

Funding for the national free swim scheme was stopped in July 2010 but the Mayor of Lewisham decided that the Council would continue to run the programme until summer 2011. Now, following the signing of contracts with the Council’s leisure centre contractors, Fusion and Leisure Connection, it has been agreed that the free swim programme will continue for the next 15 years.

To take up the offer, those aged 16 or under need to show a valid Lewisham library card. Residents aged 60 and over or those on a disability living allowance can use the Lewisham Plus Card.

Sir Steve said: "Continuing to offer free swimming across the borough has been a priority for me. Knowing Leisure Connection and Fusion share our commitment to helping residents make the most of the borough's leisure services - especially those on a low or fixed income - means the free swimming programme can now be properly sustained. The pools in Deptford, Downham, Ladywell and Sydenham are all available now - and we look forward to increasing this when Forest Hill and Loampit Vale centres are completed.

“There has been much talk about the legacy of the London 2012 Olympics - this important scheme is just a part of Lewisham's contribution to that legacy.”


Hugh said...

Except all those free lessons fail to result in anyone learning to swim, as all local regulars at the borough's pools have noted to each other.

Fidgad said...

Sir Steve said: ".............. has been a priority for me.

Let's hope it has more success than cleaning up Upper Brockley Road another so-called priority of his.

How was this man re-elected?

Hugh said...

The poor around here always vote Labour.

max said...

Hugh's first comment is correct, in fact they are not lessons but just casual swim sessions, and I believe they are meant more as a social valve than else though it wouldn't be wrong for poolside staff to approach those that obviously can't swim to offer them lessons.

This considerations aside it means that more and more generations of youth are growing accustomed to using the pool regularly and this means that together with the relentless densification swimming pools are getting more crowded and will be increasingly so, and they're already all working at full capacity.

The press release of the Council conteins the usual disingenuous misrepresentation that Loampit Vale is an additional pool when in fact it'll be a replacement for Ladywell, with only Forest Hill being the additional to the currently open four and only bringing the situation back to what it was a few years ago.

I think it's well arguable that even with Forest Hill reopened we're still short of one pool for an optimum situation and I hope that in the regeneration of Catford they'll consider including one somewhere.
After all they included one in the
redevelopment of Lewisham and it does increase property values there.

Anonymous said...

"The poor around here always vote Labour" except those who don't.

TC said...

Some of the rich and most of the comfortably off must have voted for him too.

But this does not answer the question why?

max said...

"Some of the rich and most of the comfortably off must have voted for him too."

Some would, but having knocked on doors I can safely say that they generally vote tory.
Still, if they're over 60 they can swim for free.

Anonymous said...

I am a regular swimmer. Almost daily. I don't think these free sessions have led to overcrowding. They are only at particular times, usually form 1:30pm, and I find it easy enough to avoid these sessions. I think it's important these free sessions are offered. Keeps kids from looking for mischief on the streets. I've never seen kids up to too much mishief in the pool, but I've seen plenty of mischief from bored kids in the parks or knocking around outside my flat. These sessions may not be lessons but how do kids develop water confidence? From playing around in the pool.
Interested to see that Fusion have been given the contract for Lewisham. Partkwood Leisure have not delivered in my opinion whereas Fusion have a good track record in London - I recall them being responsible for Seven Islands in Souhwark, I think?

max said...

I also swim almost every day and about every other day I find the pool so well attended that occasionally it's uncomfortably crowded.
For me that's full capacity, the point where people stop going because they don't fit.

I agree entirely that you can avoid the free sessions for kids (it's plain impossible to swim during those sessions) but what I'm saying is that because of free swim (which I support) many of those kids will eventually grow into regular swimmers. Many more than their older brothers, which means that in the future there will be need of more pool space than today.

Tressilliana said...

How was this man re-elected? Because the opposition was split. If there had been one Anyone But Bullock candidate at the last mayoral election he would have lost.

Anonymous said...

You really can't beat the highbrow tone of the comments on this blog. You give my compatriots of the deep South USA a run for their money on poorly formed generalizations with insidious undertones. That a news item on the new (if not additional) pool yields the comment that poor people vote Labour is absolutely inane. If it weren't for the much appreciated news, I would so be outta here.

Anonymous said...

'Sir Steve...' when did this bellend become a Sir?

Anonymous said...

It's only Hugh. The price of an unmoderated blog are trolls, ignore.

Simon said...

I'm not sure it is a good idea for the council to be providing swimming sessions free of charge.
I believe a value needs to be attached to things for them to be appreciated. Even if there was a nominal fee it would go towards the upkeep of the pool or the wages of the staff. To pay absolutely nothing just doesn't make sense to me. Are we saying that people are so poor that unless things are free, they will not use them?
It is better to get a bit of money in than to see facilities close somewhere down the line.
I visited the Imperial War museum recently and again, it was free. I made a donation but I still say, there are very few people out there who couldn't spare a couple of quid for something they wanted to do or see.
Young people do have money-they can get part-time work and the over 60's can also afford it really-it's a case of priorities.
I'm all in favour of discounts for the needy but giving things away for nothing often leads to the loss of things we hold dear.

max said...

"Are we saying that people are so poor that unless things are free, they will not use them?"

Yes, that is the case.

There are people that count the pennies and there are plenty of children from those households that need opportunities such as access to swimming, youth clubs, libraries...

Simon said...

@max-How do you know that?
People get benefits, family allowance, pensions. How they choose to spend that money is up to them but why shouldn't they make a minor contribution?
My football club decided to put a stop to the unemployed and students playing for free. Consequently, we didn't lose any members due to this policy and the behaviour of certain individuals improved due to them making an investment in the club. They're self-esteem seemed to improved as a result also as they were actually buying into something. Again, their match fees were still subsidised until they had found work.
As I said before, I'm all in favour of discounts but I think it's a headline grabbing concession by the Mayor.

max said...

I think you're making some confusing assumptions.

First, it's not just people on benefits who are poor, nowadays you can quite easily be in employment and yet struggle to make ends meet to the point where you have to sacrifice non-essentials, and swimming sessions for the kids would very much qualify as non-essentials.

And from a child's welfare point of view whether the parents are in work or on benefits is not really relevant, if the family income is low then it's low.

When I finish my swim and in the changing room I cross ways with the crowd of kids coming in for free and it's quite obvious that many of them are from very poor families. I imagine that if entry wasn't free in many cases they would not go swimming, and from their point of view life would be a bit more boring that it is with this small but significative opportunity.

Lewisham is a borough where statistically there is a high population of children in poverty and as such free entry to the pool is a desirable public policy. It offers an opportunity of active recreation to all children including many children at risk of social exclusion for economic rerasons.

In your example of your football club you speak of benefits for sudents and unemployed. It seems to me that it's a different group of individuals you're speaking of. Young adults rather than children.

Tamsin said...

It's not that easy to get part-time work as a young person still in education. So many restrictions now on employment and, with the Inland Revenue hot on tax dodging, casual jobs for cash are just not available.

It is important for health and welfare issues for both the young and the elderly to get out and about and be/stay active and involved. Therefore, although I would normally be totally in agreement about making a charge so that what is offered is valued, in this case I think free swimming for these categories of people should be provided if possible.

Steve Bullock became "Sir Steve" a good few years back - the date is commemorated in the Civic Suite where he is listed as mayor under both designations.

Lou Baker said...

Clearly this is not free swimming.

It is swimming that is paid for by somebody else.

Wonderful if you are the recipient of this generosity.

Not so wonderful if you pay for everyone else to have a swim.

The reason this policy is so wrong is that it is so arbitrary.

I know plenty of over 60s who are very very well off. They've paid off their mortgage. They live in an expensive house. They don't have kids to support anymore and have final salary pension schemes. Why should these people get free swimming (and free travel) just because they're old?

What about the young families - with both parents in work, huge mortgage, huge childcare costs, who have to subside Max and his Trotskyite friends in their aims to have the state run everything? These people - the back bone of the economy - don't benefit from this policy. Why should they be forced to fund this unnecessary guff.

As for under 16s - fine if they go swimming as part of school, but it should not be 'free' outside of school. And it should not be 'free' because making it 'free' unfairly benefits kids who like swimming and kids who live near swimming pools. A child who happens to prefer tennis, football, cycling and who happens to live 2 miles from a pool gets no benefit at all. A kid who likes swimming and lives next door gets huge benefit.

Much better to give ALL under 16s an allowance to go towards whatever sport they choose rather than to favour one specific group.

Sandle wearer said...

"...Much better to give ALL under 16s an allowance...."

Oh dear Lou, muddled as always. You bemoan that some over 60s don't need the benefit and then advocate a non means tested benefit. Like child benefit, the winter fuel allowance etc, etc...

Not sure I see a fundamental difference with your proposal. Moneys, raised through taxation given out by the state for some kind of collective good.

Used sanitary towel on the changing room floor said...

Ladywell pool is gross and I agree with Simon that people don't respect things that are free. Dare I say it but in this instance I also agree with Lou. And with so many illiterate young people why are they closing libraries and paying for them to arse around in a pool.

Anonymous said...

You agree with Lou? I suggest you read all his posts, he does not support public provision of any service least of all libraries. As for "arsing around" well yes sport is like that - exercise.

Lou is a clasic free Market libertarian. Low tax, small sate, sink or swim (excuse the pun). He exposes that phlosophy without the understanding of all it's implications. If you're born poor. Tough.

max said...

"What about the young families - with both parents in work, huge mortgage, huge childcare costs, who have to subside Max and his Trotskyite friends in their aims to have the state run everything? "

Yes what about them being able to send their childrent to swim for free?

Of course children could once shine shoes and sweep chimneys to pay their ways.
Unfortunately such wonderful world has been ruined by the likes of me.
But dispair not Lou, you can buy a one way ticket to any thirld world country to see it operate to your heart contentment.

max said...

By the way Lou, have you noticed how everything else you said is also majestically wrong?

I quote:
"As for under 16s - fine if they go swimming as part of school, but it should not be 'free' outside of school. And it should not be 'free' because making it 'free' unfairly benefits kids who like swimming and kids who live near swimming pools. A child who happens to prefer tennis, football, cycling and who happens to live 2 miles from a pool gets no benefit at all. A kid who likes swimming and lives next door gets huge benefit."

First, only very few children in London live as far as two miles away from a pool because there's a network of pools that makes so that about 1 mile is as far as you'd always be from a pool (there are gaps but they should eventually be plugged). This is because it is an explicit policy of Sport England to promote local pools in walking distance from everyone living in a conurbation.

Second, swimming pools unfortunately cost a lot of money and only by making them widely accessible to the public you can make an economic case for their provision, that will always be subsidized.
Even those that pay full price are benefiting from a subsidy.
But this has huge benefits for the public in terms of public health, which in turns means cheaper health expenditure.

The economic case is stronger when you have more people going to swim. To have more people contributing at the door (rather than through taxation) is a secondary consideration that really is not that important.

As for the over 60, well, many would be able to pay but in reality it's cheaper to have a blanket free for all than a means testing system. This also allow to promote swimming among over 60s. Because it benefits them and the national health.

By the way one can well say that if you are well off at 60 it means that you already paid enough taxes to deserve a free entry to the pool.

Whatever, man said...

Right on, Max!

Hugh said...

What is the evidence that free pool entry benefits public health?

Don't wave your hands or splutter, just provide the evidence.

As noted above, almost no one who goes to free swimming 'lessons' in Lewisham ends up being able to swim, which makes you think they probably don't take up swimming as a hobby, which makes you think free access has no effect on public health.

Same applies where entry is free. Either they can swim already, in which case there may be a benefit but probsbly restricted to OAPs (since you just don't see youths or kids swimming as opposed to messing about in the baby pool), or they can't, in which case they won't come.

Anonymous said...

"...almost no one who goes to free swimming 'lessons' in Lewisham ends up being able to swim..."

Where's your evidence?

I suspect there is litle data either way so lets just move on eh?

In any case the provision is to allow free access to a pool, a recreation area, not lessons.

Are you sure you're a lawyer?

(Cue "I'm considerably richer than you and I've got an oxbridge degree" etc...)

max said...

"As noted above, almost no one who goes to free swimming 'lessons' in Lewisham ends up being able to swim, which makes you think they probably don't take up swimming as a hobby, which makes you think free access has no effect on public health."

Noted by who?

I think it's very fair to assume that children that develop a habit to go the the pool for recreational purposes are more likely to swim later in life.
But this consideration aside the active recreation at the pool that scores of children enjoy has value in its own right.

It's true that you don't see many youths or kids swimming during lane swim sessions, but this is due to the fact that on the whole that kind of swimming appeals more to adults, children like to play.

20 years later the same children will be doing lane swim (by the way the full name of lane swim sessions is 'adult lane swim" and under 12 and barred from attending) but they're more likely to do so if they have gained confidence in the water during the early part of their lives.

And by the way, many kids that go to the free swim sessions can swim, and maybe they also swim with a club. It's the only opportunity that they have to show off their skills to their peers, which in turn can inspire other children to improve their swimming skills and maybe join the swimming club.

And about "play", if there were more diving boards you'd see more children at pools. That's one thing it's entirely legitimate to blame health and safety.
If there was more waterpolo we'd have more children at pools.

The lane swim only culture is a barrier to many, I am a lane swim fascist myself but I recognize that across the day there are many different groups that can make use of the pool in many different ways, and children need to play.

Lou Baker said...


So you think it's okay for kids to walk a mile or more to a pool? Weren't you one of those complaining about library rationalisation? Rationalisation which results in those same kids having to walk a mile or more to the local library.

So you think a mile is too far to go to get a book, but not too far to go to see left leaning middle aged men, like yourself, parading around in Speedos? Frankly I'd walk hundreds of miles never to have to see that.

I have no problem with the idea of subsiding sport for young people. I just don't believe it should be done in this way. Offering 'free swimming' appeals only to those who want to swim. It doesn't help those who want to cycle, or play tennis, or play hockey. Why should those kids not have their sport subsidised?

@anon 1934

I absolutely do support public services. The difference between me and you is that I don't unconditionally support public services. Public services cost me a lot of money. I expect them to be good. I expect them to be necessary. I expect them to be prioritised. I expect the important things to be got right before we deal with guff like free swimming.

When old people don't die in failing hospitals, when all our kids leave school able to read and write, when all our energy is renewable, when we have no need for prisons, when we have a second to none transport infrastructure - then start spending on the extras. Until then concentrate on getting the important stuff right - which, as a country, we palpably don't.

max said...

Lou, you're mudding the waters with considerations about libraries. Both sets of public provision have their own specific considerations.

A pool in walking distance of every Londoner is an aspiration of Sports England that has been postulated over 40 years ago and is largely a reality.

And people don't walk a mile to see middle aged swimmers in their speedos such as myself, but to swim.

I'd like to see a world with swimming pools at every corner, but that's not going to happen, so one in walking distance is a good aspiration and it's realistic.

Regarding the "unfair" treatment of swimming against other sports, the point is that swimming, besides its nature of fitness sport, is also a low impact activity that nearly everyone can engage with regardeless of age and it's an activity that's reccommended to a lot of people for terapheutic reasons (heart attacks, arthritis, asthma...).

On the basis of the great social benefits that pools bring the large investment that's required to allow people to swim is highly justified, and since that's mostly fixed costs then the priority is to get as many people as possible through the pool door.

max said...

By the way Lou, a complete training schedule for a lot of different 'dry' sports include a swimming session a week, so by subsidizing swimming in a way you help them all.

Anonymous said...

No Lou, I don't unconditionally support public services. I do however think that you shouldn't abandon 'guff' like swiming, parks and recreation just because there are other bigger things out there. We could spend ALL our tax income on health care and the elderly - the need is almost infinite - and have no parks, no 'free' schooling, no 'free' policing etc, etc...

I live in a society, I don't mind some of my money being spent on making the city I love a litle more equitable to a greater number of it's citizens. I learnt to swim via my local council, it's was free at the point of use but my parents payed tax and i continue to do so.

Hugh said...

Someone asked for evidence that free lessons don't produce kids who can swim. Here it is: swim regularly and watch what lessons consist of, and the standards of swimming on display. Keep going to the same pool for a while and check whether anything changes or instead you begin to see slightly older kids turning up visibly improved. You'll see it's a gigantic charade. The instructors do it because it's paid. The kids do it because it's fun. But it doesn't produce swimmers.

Now let's hear your counter-evidence, including pools where the kids are clearly progressing as swimmers.

Hughs boss said...

Are you sure you're a lawyer? Sounds like anecdote, not evidence that would standup to any kind of scrutiny.

Come back when you've got something worth considering. Close the door on the way out, thanks awfully.

max said...

Where are these free lessons?
I pay for my daughter's classes at Ladywell.

What's free is access to "casual swim" sessions (i.e. no lanes, mayhem of kids going in every direction).

max said...

Hugh, watch this at 8:35.

Hugh said...

Max, perhaps the lessons aren't free; I'd assumed they were given the free pool entry scheme. Regardless, even the free entry scheme doesn't produce swimmers.

Think about it. If simply having access to water meant people learned to swim, pools would be full of proficient swimmers.

The free entry scheme isn't driven by a concern with swimming standards. It's based on wobbly assumptions about general exercise levels, keeping youths out of trouble, and winning votes.

Glad to see hughs boss is getting exercised. Pity about the status envy on display.

max said...

But Hugh, pools are full of proficient swimmers at lane swim time.

Moreover, the swimming club is very popular with Lewisham kids and they also do well at competitions and Lewisham pools work at full capacity, which means that their subsidy is well spent.

The play time slots is attended by children of every capacity, and some have no capacity at all, but getting there and splashing about surely is a potential first step in a progressions. I agree that someone will not learn anyway, in fact at the beginning of the thread I said that pool staff could well go and have a chat about learning with those that clearly can't.

I also agree that much of the reason behind the free swim is about keeping kids out of trouble, and that's ok with me, it's a good enough reason, but it's not the only one.

Hughs therapist said...

Nope Hugh, simply ridiculing your argument. I'm doing you a favour. When people disagree with you, end a relationship with you or decide not to invite you to the pub, it really is all about you and not about jealousy or envy. It's a basic gag reaction.

Simon said...

@Max-"First, it's not just people who are on benefits who are poor, nowadays you can be in employment and still find it hard to make ends meet to the point where you have to sacrifice non essentials and swimming sessions for kids would qualify as non essentials"

These non essentials Max; do they include cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, sky television, expensive trainers, sweets, take away food?
If we really want to give poorer families swimming lessons we could cut some dole money for recreation vouchers-at least we'd be sure kids used them rather than their parents spending their benefit money on the above.
I have a family and I have to budget according to my means-yes I have to do without certain things just to ensure my children have the essentials-non of the above I hasten to add. I work hard, pay my taxes and I have to make do without the basics-my 5 year old daughter hasn't been offered a place in a state school for the second year running (despite us living within easy walking distance of four-education to my mind is an essential.
Why should I subsidise anyone else when a provision hasn't been made to educate my daughter?
This whole free swimming is just a publicity stunt nothing more. There is nothing wrong with making a nominal contribution-even if money is tight. As I said before if you work hard for something or you pay for something, you are more likely to appreciate it.

max said...

Simon, as I wrote above children could once shine shoes and sweep chimneys to pay their ways.

We have moved on from that now.

Lou Baker said...


Simon's point is well made.

He has a family to provide for. He wants to give his family the best he can. But half of his earnings are taken away from him before he even starts and dumped in the tax pot. He has no control over how his money his spent.

Like me, he probably has no objection to it being spent on genuinely important things - for example health and education. Like me, he expects those services to be good but also to provide value for money.

What he doesn't expect is for his hard earned cash to be wasted. He can't afford to waste any of the half of his earnings that he keeps. Why should the state waste any of the other half?

But it does, doesn't it? Despite us being in a massive financial crisis and councils having to save money - again, last week, I received a copy of Lewisham Life through my door. This badly written and unnecessary taxpayer funded ad for the local Labour party is a prime example of a council wasting money. In it is an advert for a council subsidised bicycle maintenance training course. Another prime example of wasting money. Details of People's Day. More waste. And details of what Lewisham is doing to support Black History Month. I've nothing against Black History - but it should not be taxpayer funded.

'Free swimming' fits in this category. Many - if not most - of those adults who benefit from it could afford to pay when they go swimming. As for the rest - tough. Perhaps give up the mobile phone. Smoke fewer cigarettes. Drink less beer. Eat fewer takeaways. There are otherways to save money to spend on your swimming instead.

Kids should have access to subsidised sport but I believe it is totally wrong to only subsidise swimming and not other sports. The way to encourage kids to exercise is to get them really in to a sport they love rather than forcing them into something just because it's easy. And just because Speedo Max likes it.

Please remember this when you next slip off your trunks and put on your cords and sandals instead.

max said...

Lou, you don't disappoint me, I see how you can find Simon's point well made.
I'll have to come back about later though, I'm afraid I really have to work this morning.

max said...

Simon, as soon as the free swim was introduced the number of kids attending those sessions has rocketed. And that's good.

About your opinion on the poor and how they spend their money on fags when you work so hard... honestly, I don't want to go there.
I really don't think it's a legitimate argument.

Lou, I really shouldn't replay to yet another round of the same drivel but let me just point at the fact that in the same comment you managed to support subsidies for sports and agree with Simon that there shouldn't be any.
Congratulations, surely having two strong opinions on the same subject is better than having just one.

Hugh said...

Max said:

"But Hugh, pools are full of proficient swimmers at lane swim time."

Erm, which pool is that?

Swimming is the one mass participation sport/activity where the proportion of able practitioners is vanishingly small.

max said...

You shark!

Lou Baker said...


I oppose all free swimming for adults. Period.

I support the idea of subsidising sports for kids - but all sports, not just swimming.

So if a teenager wants to go horse riding, play polo, football or golf instead - they should get support doing that.

The aim being to foster a lifelong interest in sport that is beneficial for health and well being.

It's not hard.

Anonymous said...

So Lou wants to subsidise horse riding over building schools?

Sorry, that was a deliberately stupid point. A Lou-like soundbite. Life Lou, it's full of adult decisions and tricky tradeoffs. Best leave it to the grownups.

max said...

Lou, your argument is all over the place, you're trying to be contrarian with ludicrous results.

People can swim because of a major political decision in a capital investment to give an opportunity to the whole of the population, and without a central political decision to use taxation to provide pools this would never have happened.

Pools are a community provision for all and the more people make use of them the better.

Horse riding doesn't have anything in common with swimming, it's completely the wrong example.

You could make an analogy with cycling. If a decision to invest in cycling lanes all over London was taken then you could have mass transportation by bycicle and only a fool would object to that on the ground that zeppelins are not given the same support.

Mayor Boris said...

Zeppelins? Hmmmm... I'll get my people to talk to your people, let's make it happen!

max said...

But what about stilts?

Friggatenkapitan Strasser said...

Iss true! Were is meiner grant?

Lou Baker said...


Horse riding is only the wrong example because you consider it a rich persons sport. You believe swimming should be subsidised - because it's for poor people - and things like horse riding shouldn't be because they're for the wealthy.

What about the poor kid who doesn't like swimming. Who rejects spending time with nerdy middle aged men in Speedos and who, instead, wants to ride. They are denied any sort of financial help because all the money is going to subsidise swimming.

And it's not just subsidising swimming for kids. It's subsidising swimming for adults too - many (if not most) of whom could afford to pay for it.

Perhaps you think it's right that people like Sir Paul McCartney and Sir Phillip Green can have a free swim at Deptford if they fancy - but that little Chardonnay from a poor estate in Brockley can't get help to play badminton once a week. I don't.

Poor old Chardonnay can't afford it by herself - her single dad spends most of his money on fags and Stella and she has to make do with hand me down school clothes from one of her 13 half brothers and sisters. Think of her. She wants to make her life better - to reject the existence she's known until now. Badminton could help her do that. But she's denied because people like you think Speedos are the answer to everything.

They're not.

I think all children - regardless of their parents - deserve a chance to discover who they want to be.

max said...

Lou, what about digging, isn't that unfair? If that was a sport you'd be world champion.

Chardonnay can play badmington for free if the badmington court is part of her school or sport facility owned by the Council, just like pools are.

I'm afraid Lewisham Council doesn't own horse riding courses but you are of course free to campaign for the Council to invest in such a facility.
I would surely enjoy seeing you approaching the Council with this request. Go ahead Lou, keep digging!

Lou's concience said...

"Poor old Chardonnay can't afford it by herself - her single dad spends most of his money on fags and Stella and she has to make do with hand me down school clothes from one of her 13 half brothers and sister"

A classy response as always, where do you get your innate sense of superiority from? Is callous distain a characteristic you hope to pass to the next generation? Thoroughly nasty and undermines your already weak argument. High wage earners are just as likely to piss money away that they could spend on their kids. Stop being an arse

Brockley Nick said...

Lou, there is an obvious reason why swimming is more important to subsidise than horse riding: being able to swim can potentially save your life and is a basic life skill.

There are few occasions when being able to ride a horse elegantly is a matter of life or death and it hasn't been a basic life skill for a couple of hundred years.

I'm a taxpayer, get me out of here..! said...

This is like hunting tortoises with shotgun while riding a quadbike.

I want to know if Lou has costed his non means tested sports vouchers, or was it an off the cuff suggestion born from suspicion that the lower orders are picking his pockets?

Tamsin said...

Well, not actually being able to swim - just confidence in the water so you don't panic and someone can rescue you might be enough.

Some horse-riding is sort of subsidised for those in need or who will significnatly benefit. The stables I'm involved with in Mottingham Lane have schools sessions and riding for the disabled which I think is bought in by Greenwich. Made possible by using CRB checked volunteers to lead the horses.

Hugh said...

So subsidising lessons and pool access is about stopping people drowning, rather than teaching them to swim?

Wouldn't it be cheaper for them to avoid water?

Tamsin said...

No, it's also about encouraging a mindset in the young towards a healthy and enjoyable exercise (child and teenage obesity is a growing problem - in every sense of the word). Hopefully they will continue with the concept of a regular swim-session through their lives even when they have to start paying for it. For pensioners it is about keeping an increasing elderly population going out and being active, even when their personal budgets are tight, with a massive saving in health and social care costs.

lll said...

15 years is a long time so we'll probably all, benefit from the scheme in some way, if we so choose, for any kids we have, or if we hit 60.

Hugh said...

Tamsin, the way to encourage that mindset is to teach them to swim properly. The lessons and free access don't, however. So it's a huge waste of money.

Lou Baker said...


Swimming is clearly not a basic life skill in south east London.

It might be if you live near the coast - but here avoiding gun and knife carrying thugs and being able to cross the road safely are far more important skills.

@lou's conscience
I have no doubt wealthy people waste their money too - I've never said otherwise. But if you've got money to waste that's your right. If you don't have money - and rely fully on the generosity of others to survive - then you should not waste that money on non-essentials like booze and fags. Particularly if you have children to support on a budget. Anyone unhappy with this situation is more than welcome to get a well paid job instead.

This is why benefits should be paid in vouchers rather than cash. Vouchers which can only be exchanged for essentials - and not luxuries.

Hugh said...

As we're on the topic, why is there a higher density of satellite dishes in low-income neighbourhoods?

Mr Brightside said...

Hugh over 60s will swim for free! Only couple of years to go & you'll receive your Lewsishm Plus card, you'd think you'd be happy!

Hugh said...

Anyone whose repartee employs ampersands deserves all our sympathy.

Simon said...

I would have thought that you were more likely to put yourself in a position to drown if you can swim rather than if you can't.
You are much more likely to take risks in the water, swim out too far when on holiday or go skinny dipping when pissed out of your head-okay just me then!
The non swimmers I know never seem to want to go near water and steer well clear. I guess you could argue that kids in Lewisham could fall into a canal or disused quarry filled with water but being able to swim statistically probably makes them more likely to be in a position to get themselves drowned.

Hughs Therapist. said...


Did you see that Horizon program about pychopaths last night?

Call my PA double quick and make an appointment.

max said...

Simon said:
"I would have thought that you were more likely to put yourself in a position to drown if you can swim rather than if you can't."

And you would be wrong.
Statistically very few people drowned while swimming, the overwhelming majority is people who fall into the water but couldn't swim (or were drunk).

Are you the same Simon that said that there shouldn't be public spend on pools because they're used by people that squander their benefits on fags?

Hugh said...

Max, can you support that with evidence? Someone told me you're more likely to drown if you can swim - this was ten years ago and he was reporting on a government study. I don't see why anything would have changed since then.

max said...

Hugh said...

Hughs Therapist, what is a "pychopath"?

Get literate if you want to be taken seriously. I assume it's already an issue for you.

Hugh said...

Thanks Max. Where does it say the 'Fell in' category includes only non-swimmers?

max said...

I think that the result of the fall is a good indication of whether the subject could swim or not.

By the way, the presumption that a drunk takes a risk because he can swim rather than because he's drunk is another statement that smells funny.

Hugh said...

Max, you have just (spectacularly) begged the question.

Tamsin said...

Traditionally sailors in the days of wind power chose not to learn to swim - if you fell in there was very little that could be done to rescue you and the feeling was you were better off drowning quickly that staying there treading water while the ship disappeared over the horizon.

max said...

Hugh, I fully stand by my logic, if you fall in the water and you can swim you're much less likely to drown than if you can't.

There surely is one piece of statistic I'd like to see but we're unlikely to find, that one that tells you how many people have not drown because they could swim, luckily for them they didn't become statistics.

Hugh said...

Max, let me spell it out.

You quote statistics to support your view that swimmers are less likely to drown than non-swimmers. When the statistics are queried, it turns out your use of them already assumes that swimmers are less likely to drown than non-swimmers.

That isn't logic. It's simply assuming the truth of what you are purporting to prove.

As they say in American football: nil yards gained.

Lou Baker said...


There's a difference between the council providing pool facilities - and making those facilities free.

I'd expect councils to fund bike lanes and roads. We'd all be a bit miffed if they started handing out bikes and cars too.

That's what's effectively happening here.

I know in your land of plenty - where everyone else pays for you and you pay for nothing - this might be wonderful. For most of us it's unnecessary and costly.

You really need to rebel against this Trotskyite system you worship. I beg you, do something radical. Ditch the Speedos. Embrace swimming shorts. And when you've done 50 lengths of front crawl, get changed into some nice comfortable jeans and trainers. Forsake those cords and sandals. You'll feel better for it.

max said...

Hugh, you're querying something that the statistics don't say.

The suggestion that people drown because they take risks out of the false sense of security is a good suggestion and surely it is true for people that think they can swim because of the 25m badge they got at primary but in fact if you can swim and you accidentally fall in the water you just swim out of it (and don't make it in the statistics).

Those that died did so of the false sense of security, not because of swimming skills.

It's even clearer for drunks, to say that a drunk drowned because of the false sense of security that knowing how to swim gave him is a logic fallacy. They took a risk because they were drunk, and their drunken state was ain impedment to swim out of trouble.

I'd like to make an analogy, here's the statement:
completely destitute people can't bankrupt.
Is it therefore safe to be completely broke? And yet people tell themselves that they like to be poor because people with money have so many problems and stuff like that. Well, that logic is just delusional and consolatory. It's safe to say that it's better to have more money than less.

Same for swimming, it's better to know how to swim and the better you swim the less likely you are to die if you fall in the water.

durrr said...

"where everyone else pays for you and you pay for nothing"

No, I pay for services that I recieve. Even those who receive the benfit described here may well have payed taxes all their lives. The kids parents may, and probably do, pay some tax. Society is subsidising some people who may otherwise not benefit. It's a progressive taxation system. If you're born without you tend to saty poor and so will your kids. I pay for your kids education, I don't object to that. We all benefit. Simples.

max said...

Lou, they're not free, they're free entry for some groups and their entry fee is mostly paid by taxation!

And remember, those that pay an entry fee are nevertheless still benefiting from a subsidy from taxation.

The entry fee is kept low because it is in the public interest that people keep fit and healthy and pools are an effective way to do so in urban environments.

I truly support public investment in pools and the maximazation of the investment by having as many people as possible using them.

It is in this light that free entry for children and elderly is in my opinion fully justified.

(by the way, I swim in speedo trunks, and sandals are absolutely appropriate during summer, especially if they've got wonderful feet like me)

Hugh said...

Max, I've told you why your logic is flawed. I can't do more. Horses to water and all that.

max said...

I'm sorry I don't recognize the flaw.

- We don't know if people that drowned could swim.

- For all we know there could be 10 times or 100 times more people that swam out of the water after they fell into it than people that drowned.
Only that because nothing serious happened they don't appear in the statistics.

Counter these argument and I'll agree with you that knowing how to swim is a risk factor.

Brockley Nick said...

Simon and Hugh, is the logic that we should all avoid learning to swim, to reduce our chances of drowning?

Swimming coaches are little better than murderers. I don't know how they sleep at night ;)

Lou Baker said...


It is indeed in the public interest to keep the public fit and healthy. This is the first and only thing you have ever said I will ever agree with.

But you don't do that by subsidising one specific sport for specific groups of people - many of whom don't need the subsidy in the first place.

You take the old 'one size fits all' approach to public services. Faceless bureaucrats dictate what's good for us and that's what we get. I believe when half of everything we earn goes on all this stuff public services - all of them - should be much more responsive to individual needs. For you that means free swimming. For someone else it may mean subsidised football or a discount on a bike so they can cycle.

Your one Speedo size fits all days are well and truly over. Most of the public demand better.

max said...

Lou, your objection is of a dogmatic nature.
The public has invested in swimming pools because they work to keep people fit and healthy and entry fees are structured to make the best of that investment.
Other sports all have their level of subsidy. Swimming is not depriving any sport of their due support.

Hugh said...

Max, one can't really argue with somebody who refuses to accept that 2+2=4.

Leave logic to others.

Hugh said...

Nick, I guess the position is that if you choose to learn to swim you should accept a greater risk of drowning. Ditto skiers and avalanche deaths (wait - Max is going to tell us that only skiers can ski away from the trouble...).

Hugh said...

Max, you're now arguing against yourself. This is comic!

max said...

Hugh, an avalanche is hardly comparable to calm waters isn't it.

If you want to compare like for like then you should compare the percentage of those that die or get injured of a skiing accident (or horse riding) in normal conditions with that of the percentage of swimmers drowning in swimming pools and in truth I haven't got a clue about that or care much but I bet that skiing and horse riding are far more dangerous than swimming.

The fact remains that the idea that knowing how to swim is a risk factor is laughable.
Having a fridge exposes you to a risk of electrocution and having money to risk of bankrupcy.

Still, swimming is great for keeping fit and if you fall into the water you have a greater chance to get out alive.

To say that if you don't know how to swim then you're less likely to venture near deep water and that's one less risk factor in your life is a delusional consolation.

max said...


just to put this argument to rest once and for all, the
current report of RoSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) about drowning lists these as preventative measures:

- Promote “learn to swim” programs for primary school children, especially in low- and middle-income countries.
- Increase access to public swimming pools to promote learning to swim.

Simon said...

@Max-On the contrary-I do think sports and swimming should be subsidised for poorer people-what's wrong with giving swimming vouchers for a slight reduction in benefits money?
That would ensure children had access to the local pool.
I also wonder why swimming isn't taught in schools if it's such a basic skill?
I'm all for kids being taught to swim as part of their P.E.
My main point throughout this thread has been that swimming shouldn't be absolutely free for certain age groups. I believe many people are able to pay and they should make a contribution. Other poorer groups should pay a discounted fee.
Why not try the free swimming in a more wealthy borough first where the council purse strings aren't so stretched?
If we lose facilities due to being unable to finance them then that would be a real shame for the wider community.
@Nick-I'm not for one minute saying that it isn't in a person's best interests to learn to swim. As you said "swimming can potentially save your life and is a basic skill".
I just make the point that it could be argued that a child from the UK is more likely to be drowned if they can swim rather than if they can't because they are more likely to put themselves at risk.
I personally don't feel that the Mayor has introduced free swimming to certain sections of the community with the intention of lessening the number of people from the borough who drown.

max said...

"I also wonder why swimming isn't taught in schools if it's such a basic skill?"

I have news for you, swimming is part of the curriculum!

As for any other point you raise you'll find the answers in the comments above.

Hugh said...

Max, how does that RoSPA quote settle matters once and for all?

I'm ignoring for now the circularity of your earlier arguments.

max said...

Hugh, what's wrong with you?

You've been shown a very authoritative and up to date study based on available data about risks of drowning.
Unsurprisingly it states that learning to swim helps prevent drowning.

Doesn't that suggest you something about the ludicrous opposite argument that you've been supporting all day, and that so far you also failed to substantiate with anything?

Sometimes counterintuitive arguments are very clever. Not always though.

Simon said...

@Max-Well if swimming is part of the curriculum, why do do kids need free swimming?
It's not as if councils are awash with money at the moment is it?
You still haven't answered why swimming has to be free for certain age groups and why those groups they can't make a contribution-each time they use the pool?

Simon said...

@Max-Is the UK a low or middle income country?
The report from the RSOPA states that 97% of all those drowned globally are from low or middle income countries.
I'm not sure how many people from the Borough of Lewisham die each year but I expect it to be vastly reduced over the next fifteen years.
Nice man that Mayor.

max said...

Simon, kids exist after school time, that's why free swimming outside school time exists.

In fact despite it being a duty schools often struggle to provide swimming lessons because of budgets, especially if they have to bus kids to and fro the pool.
Moreover, the curriculum states that kids must learn to swim 25 metres unaided and that's a rather low bar.

As you can learn from that report I linked (should you decide to read) worldwide there are about 400,000 deaths from drowning every year, and since in the UK there's about 1% of the world's population it means that you would expect about 4,000 deaths here, especially since we're surrounded by water.

Instead we have only about 400 yearly deaths, that means 3,600 lives saved each year compared to the world average. That's 10 each day.
And that's evidence that learning to swim can save your life as evidently it does every day in the UK.

And that's also about the measure of how wrong you are about the risk that knowing how to swim poses.

max said...

Oh I see, you posted another one of yours before I posted my reply.

Ok, as you see we're a developed country where swimming is taught at school and promoted, the result is that we have only one tenth of the average deaths.

In less developed countries the poor are not taught to swim and as they say...they sink.
Ten times more than here.

Simon said...

@Max-You make the assumption that more people drown globally because they can't swim-is that a fact?

max said...

Ask them.

Hugh said...

Max, with respect, you appear to be a moron.

To recap:

I said someone told me being able to swimming means you are more likely to drown.

You disagreed, quoting a survey showing most drowning comes from people 'falling in'.

I pointed out that proves nothing, unless you assume most of those who drowned after falling in can't swim. The survey provided no support for this assumption, so you simply helped yourself to it.

I pointed out that you were simply assuming what you had set out to prove.

You responded that you couldn't see this flaw in your reasoning.

We all concluded you are a mental defective.

I hope the above is easy to follow, but let us know which steps you struggle to make.

Hughs ex said...

Hugh, you're being an insufferable cock again. Why don't you and your right hand have an early night and make sweet, sweet love?

max said...

Hugh, so you say that, quote:

someone told me being able to swimming means you are more likely to drown

Now, I understand you're in the legal profession so you should be familiar with the concept that if you make a statement you must then support it with some evidence.

Moreover, if this statement is an extraordinary one, as your counterintuitive argument is and you're asking others to refute it then you really, really, really have to come up with some evidence of the extraordinary thing you're saying.

To say that someone told me is evidence of something is... well... how to put it... never mind Hugh, good night, sleep well.

NAT said...

'Being able to swimming'? Hugh, Have you been mixing the horse tranquielisers with the sherry, or has the redundancy of your arguement worked its way back to your normally perfect though pointless grammar?

max said...

By the way Hugh, even if you failed to provide evidence of what you say I nevertheless gave you pretty good evidence of the contrary so to say that I have not substantiated my point is completely false.

The first statistics I pointed at today shows that of all 427 deaths for drowning in the UK in 2002 just 25 deaths were of people that were swimmers and that died having a swim (7 died in swimming pools, 4 in Rivers, 3 in lakes, reservoirs & canals, 7 in the sea and 4 in estuaries & tidal rivers).

Now, please digest this data, of all the millions of swims undertaken by swimmers in this country during 2002 only 25 resulted in deaths.

This data by itself tells you rather a lot about the dangers of swimming.

Now, couple this data with the other statistics about drownings worldwide that shows that developed countries (where people can swim) have only a fraction (about one tenth) of deaths by drowning of non developed countries.

What does this tell you about the "fact" you've been told by "someone" that knowing how to swim is a dangerous thing?

Going further, of all the UK deaths by drowning of 2002 only 80 were of people that simply fell in the water and weren't drunk.
What you're saying is that these 80 people were largely over-confident swimmers that carelessly fell into the water.

Now, there is no way to prove this claim of yours one way or the other but even if it was true this number would still be overwhelmed by that of swimmers that fell and could get out, and the number of deaths in the under-developed countries gives a rough indication of how many these could be.

This means that whatever way you look at them, the available statistics show that what you say is complete and utter nonsense.

Hugh said...

Max, be grateful. I'm teaching you how to think.

Yes, someone told me that swimmers are more likely to drown. That was the reason I asked you why you took the contrary view.

I didn't claim to have proof one way or the other (and I don't mind which is true). I simply used what I had previously been told as a reason to query your view.

In seeking to provide 'pretty good evidence' to 'substantiate' your view, you cited some statistics.

The statistics are fine - we can all accept those for the sake of argument.

What I patiently did was to show you that the statistics themselves don't do what you want them to. For that, you need to add an assumption. Comically enough, the assumption turns out to be the very assertion you were claiming to substantiate.

You haven't gone wrong in finding evidence that may be relevant. You've gone wrong in failing to spot that your argument is circular.

A common error, frankly. Most people can't think their way out of a paper bag. When contradicted they think winning or losing the argument is all about what seems obvious or compelling to them personally. Ask yourself whether Aristotle or Plato got famous for gobbing off to the effect that 'this seems true to me'. The point appears to be lost on you but thinking is like playing the violin or flying a jet: it takes care. You crashed just after take off.

If you want to win an argument, try showing why the other side's view is faulty. You just repeat yourself and introduce new irrelevancies, confusing rhetorical force for logic. Rhetoric might work down the pub with the blunt-minded but not in front of a more capable audience.

I expect this will evoke more rage. Fine. Irrelevant.

max said...

Sorry Hugh, I didn't understand that you were a child just grown out of the chicken and egg joke and now busy impressing teacher with sophistic arguments.
Don't worry it's just a phase.

Anonymous said...

haven't you got better things to do Max?

max said...


Hugh said...

Max, old fruit, a sore loser tends to remain one. Cheer up.

NAT said...

Cripes, he thinks he's won or something. We're all for it now. He'll be ebullient for a while, with feelings of omnipotence, until something happens to tip him back into rage.

Sure wish he hadn't dismissed that nice therapist.

Hugh said...

At least Max can say he has something in common with David Haye.

max said...

And Hugh's got something in commonwith Charlie Sheen...winning!

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