Plans to cut leisure services for Wirral's Armed Forces are a 'low blow' for veterans

Wirral Globe: Plans to cut leisure services for Wirral's Armed Forces are a 'low blow' for veterans Plans to cut leisure services for Wirral's Armed Forces are a 'low blow' for veterans

A FORMER member of the Army has hit out at plans to cut back on a scheme allowing past and serving members of the Armed Forces free access to council-run leisure facilities.

A report to Wirral’s ruling cabinet on Monday outlines how the authority plans to save in excess of £2m by “transforming” its leisure services.

One of the proposals being put forward is to alter the discount given to current and former members of the Armed Forces.

At present, all current serving and former armed service personnel receive free use of facilities at all leisure facilities, at all times, with 2,400 individuals registered for what the council deems a “generous concession”.

But the proposal is to target the free use benefit to current serving members of the Armed Forces – including the Territorial Army and Reservists – who are from Wirral and former service personnel who have suffered a disabling injury when in the services and are in receipt of a disability benefit.

Wallasey man Simon Johnston, who retired from the Army in 2004 after tours of Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan, and suffered from Post Traumatic Stress disorder, said he felt the proposals were taking discrimination of veterans to “a new level”.

Mr Johnston was part responsible for the current system after lobbying the council five years ago to change the policy from serving personnel to include veterans and members of the TA.
“I feel very betrayed by this change of heart,” he said.

“It took a number of years to bring the change about and at the same time the council helped my wife and myself set up Wirral Veterans.”

Wallasey Tory Cllr Paul Hayes slammed the move earlier this week, dubbing it a “cynical attempt at penny pinching on the backs of the brave”.

He said: “This move is outrageous, coming just days after the people of Wirral celebrated the contribution of our Armed Forces during Armed Forces Day.

“The courageous men, women and veterans of our Armed Forces are deserving of our continued gratitude and support.

“The cabinet report calls this scheme a ‘generous concession’ – I say it is the least we can do for those to who are prepared, or have been prepared, to make the ultimate sacrifice for us all. I call upon cabinet to immediately reject this plan.”

Wirral Globe:

Wallasey man Simon Johnston - who retired from the Army in 2004 - has described the proposals as a "low blow".

Mr Johnston added: “It is a disgrace. It has taken discrimination to a new level which is quite sick in a way.

“It is quite a low blow to be honest.”

Under the proposals, a new programme will be made available for serving members and injured or disabled former service personnel which will include one-on-one gym instruction.

The report sets out that those who currently have the benefit of free use but would not qualify under the new policy will be given access to a discount of up to 25% on the corporate Invigor8 membership.

Cllr Chris Meaden, cabinet member for leisure, sport and culture, defended the move and said it was part of a £2m scheme to “improve our leisure centres and make them more attractive to customers” while making sure “facilities remain accessible and affordable for the most vulnerable members of our community”.

She said: “If the report is backed by cabinet, serving armed forces personnel from Wirral will still be able to access our leisure facilities free of charge, as will any former serving officers living locally who have suffered a disabling injury or receive disability benefits.

“Indeed, the plan is to improve our offer in this area by offering them one-to-one gym instruction and, working with other departments, a wider package of support.”

  • What do you think about the plans? Have your say below or email emma.rigby@nqnw.co.uk

Comments (5)

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3:43pm Fri 4 Jul 14

LM1973 says...

And what about injured soldiers? Why should officers get the benefit but soldiers not? Surely retired officers would have more money than retired soldiers to pay for the benefits themselves!!!!!
And what about injured soldiers? Why should officers get the benefit but soldiers not? Surely retired officers would have more money than retired soldiers to pay for the benefits themselves!!!!! LM1973
  • Score: 5

8:57pm Fri 4 Jul 14

Hon says...

How is this discrimination?
How is this discrimination? Hon
  • Score: 3

12:24am Sat 5 Jul 14

johno8660 says...

A veteran is anyone who has served 1 day in uniform regardless of any injury! That is why the proposal is a discrimination
A veteran is anyone who has served 1 day in uniform regardless of any injury! That is why the proposal is a discrimination johno8660
  • Score: 3

9:52am Sat 5 Jul 14

uncatom says...

johno8660 wrote:
A veteran is anyone who has served 1 day in uniform regardless of any injury! That is why the proposal is a discrimination
Agree, the forces are riddled with the class barrier and discrimination, anyone who has served should be entitled, Tom should get the same as Rupert.
[quote][p][bold]johno8660[/bold] wrote: A veteran is anyone who has served 1 day in uniform regardless of any injury! That is why the proposal is a discrimination[/p][/quote]Agree, the forces are riddled with the class barrier and discrimination, anyone who has served should be entitled, Tom should get the same as Rupert. uncatom
  • Score: 3

3:58pm Wed 16 Jul 14

Coffeenato says...

As a veteran, i have enjoyed the free facilities since i retired from the Army last year. I thought it was a superb idea which helps us ex forces keep fit after losing access to our military gyms and regular PT sessions. Fitness is important to mental health, so i know i need to continue with my workouts for the rest of my life; however i am going to struggle to afford a monthly pass as income is low. Does the Council really lose an awful lot of money through allowing serving forces and veterans access to the facilites? If it is indeed going to be taken away, how about a 50% reduction for the invigor8 monthly pass. that would help some at least.
As a veteran, i have enjoyed the free facilities since i retired from the Army last year. I thought it was a superb idea which helps us ex forces keep fit after losing access to our military gyms and regular PT sessions. Fitness is important to mental health, so i know i need to continue with my workouts for the rest of my life; however i am going to struggle to afford a monthly pass as income is low. Does the Council really lose an awful lot of money through allowing serving forces and veterans access to the facilites? If it is indeed going to be taken away, how about a 50% reduction for the invigor8 monthly pass. that would help some at least. Coffeenato
  • Score: 0

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