New figures show that the attendance numbers for local sports facilities containing swimming pools across the district have dropped by more than 150,000 within two years.
Data released to the Telegraph & Argus under Freedom of Information rules shows a drop over the last five years – from 1,172,119 visitors in 2007-08 and a high of 1,268,092 in 2009-10 at the height of the programme offering free swimming for children and pensioners, to a low of 1,113,981 in 2011-12.
The busiest pools were Shipley with 231,695 visits and Richard Dunn with 185,576 visits. After the closure of Manningham and Rhodesway, Tong Sports Centre and Pool was the least frequented, with 18,366 visits last year.
Figures also showed that the average cost per swim at Bradford Council-run pools in the district is at a five-year low.
Councillor Andrew Thornton, the Council’s portfolio holder responsible for sport, said that the Coalition Government closing the free swimming programme had a big effect.
“That made a big hole in the number and obviously the economic downturn had an effect,” he said.
“We have a sports strategy and are trying to encourage people to take up sport and we have initiaves like Passport to Leisure for those on low incomes to gain access to and play sports.
“We are also conducting a facilities review at the moment. We hope to have the initial findings very early in the New Year and from there we can figure out where we need to invest.”
He added that any proposals for a city centre pool would be dependent on the outcome of this review.
Former Sports Minister and Bradford South MP Gerry Sutcliffe (Lab) said that investment needed to be made in a new swimming pool as soon as possible.
“A lot of this drop is down to the Government cancelling the free swimming programme and pools being closed in Bradford,” he added.
“This is why I called on the Council not to close any pools until they built some. A review done last year on sports facilities highlighted the need for new swimming pools. These are disappointing figures and swimming is something families can do together.”
In 2011/12, the amount the Council spent on running its 11 municipal swimming pools was £6.1 million, with the average cost per swim calculated as £1.55 each.
However, during the last financial year, the Council has undertaken a variety of measures to make its facilities more profitable, including the closure of Manningham Pool and Rhodesway Pool in summer 2011 – two of the most subsidised facilities.
Hours were reduced at Bingley Pool, although the original cuts were scaled down after complaints from users. Overall, the measures were intended to save almost £300,000 a year.
Furthermore, swimming pool timetables and programmes are being continuously reviewed.
While the average cost per head at centres across the district was £1.55 last year, Bowling Pool was the most at £1.92 per head and Tong Sports Centre and Pool was the least at 88p a head.
Andy Ross, sports events officer at the Council, said: “In order to make facilities more profitable and therefore more sustainable, we continuously review swimming pool timetables and programmes for efficiencies.
“Staffing rotas have been reviewed in order to identify efficiency savings and a review of management structures has taken place that led to de-layering and efficiency savings.
“The Council closed two swimming pools in 2011 and reduced the opening hours at one other swimming pool.
“In 2012-13 the Council is looking at operating methods and staffing structures in order to achieve further budget savings.”