Plan to cut leisure services for Armed Forces approved by Wirral's cabinet

Wirral Globe: Former Army man Simon Johnston is against the move. Former Army man Simon Johnston is against the move.

A VETERAN soldier 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.

Last Monday, Wirral Council’s ruling cabinet approved proposals set to save in excess of £2m by “transforming” its leisure services.

One of the proposals agreed 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.

But the new plan is to allow only serving members of the Armed Forces – including the Territorial Army and Reservists – who are Wirral residents to have free use of the centres.

Former personnel who have suffered a disabling injury when in service, and are in receipt of disability benefit, continue not to have to pay.

Wallasey man Simon Johnston, who retired from the Army in 2004 after tours of Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan, said the move is "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.”

Mr Johnston added: “It is a disgrace. It has taken discrimination to a new level which is quite sick. It is quite a low blow to be honest.”

Wallasey Tory Cllr Paul Hayes slammed the move last week, dubbing it a “cynical attempt at penny pinching on the backs of the brave” and called on the cabinet to reject the plan.

Following the cabinet’s meeting, Cllr Hayes said: “Wirral’s cabinet took less than five minutes to discuss this issue and ultimately chose to vote to cut this free facility from many of Wirral’s veterans.

“The brave men and women who have previously served this country so proudly in the uniforms of our Armed Forces deserve much better than this.

“I urge the cabinet to think again and will immediately look to ‘call-in’ this decision, ensuring that this matter is put before another council committee and examined in detail.”

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.

Councillor 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”.

Comments (9)

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10:14am Tue 8 Jul 14

WirralAl says...

I fail to see how this plan will save any money. The facilities are there and if they use them good it will not cost the council any money? The fact that they use the facility means they will probably spend money when they go.

The council facilities should be used as much as possible and should be free for any council tax payer.

Every day we see empty expensive buses with 2-3 people on them. All local public transport should be free so more people use it. In the same way the buses run so fill them as much as possible. It is forward thinking and good for the environment, better for business and better for the people who would spend the money on other things.

Just another sign of short sighted penny pinching whilst splashing cash on consultants and overpaid senior officers.

Who Bloody Cares ???
I fail to see how this plan will save any money. The facilities are there and if they use them good it will not cost the council any money? The fact that they use the facility means they will probably spend money when they go. The council facilities should be used as much as possible and should be free for any council tax payer. Every day we see empty expensive buses with 2-3 people on them. All local public transport should be free so more people use it. In the same way the buses run so fill them as much as possible. It is forward thinking and good for the environment, better for business and better for the people who would spend the money on other things. Just another sign of short sighted penny pinching whilst splashing cash on consultants and overpaid senior officers. Who Bloody Cares ??? WirralAl
  • Score: 9

10:40am Tue 8 Jul 14

ballacrain says...

One of the pools I swim at on the Wirral, has five wheelchairs in it's Disabled facility. Three of them cannot be used owing to lack of maintaince,they have been like this for several months now. Talking with staff, the feeling is that the council want shut of the leisure facilities.
One of the pools I swim at on the Wirral, has five wheelchairs in it's Disabled facility. Three of them cannot be used owing to lack of maintaince,they have been like this for several months now. Talking with staff, the feeling is that the council want shut of the leisure facilities. ballacrain
  • Score: 1

11:37am Tue 8 Jul 14

JohnON says...

More pie in the sky accounting. No wonder this Council claims it's broke.
More pie in the sky accounting. No wonder this Council claims it's broke. JohnON
  • Score: 3

9:12pm Tue 8 Jul 14

the99% says...

It seems that the "savings" from this are on paper only (as stated above) because the facilities do not cost any more whether they are used or not (except for minor dilapidation write downs)or the assumption is that when the free access is withdrawn then those who used to qualify will then pay a subscription. Shocking the lengths the Council must go to in order to "balance" the books in the face of Tory govt savage cuts. We need to stop accepting the austerity myth peddled by all the major political parties and demand an alternative . We are the 99%
It seems that the "savings" from this are on paper only (as stated above) because the facilities do not cost any more whether they are used or not (except for minor dilapidation write downs)or the assumption is that when the free access is withdrawn then those who used to qualify will then pay a subscription. Shocking the lengths the Council must go to in order to "balance" the books in the face of Tory govt savage cuts. We need to stop accepting the austerity myth peddled by all the major political parties and demand an alternative . We are the 99% the99%
  • Score: 1

8:34am Fri 11 Jul 14

paidmydues says...

Lets see the accounts that show how two million pounds is saved.
I have had dealings with the council in the past with regards to financial figures, and they seem to be at a loss themselves when questioned.
Further more as an ex serviceman it is really a slap in the face when you are away for 90% of the time, for your local authority to say hear are the facilities you could be using if you were not in another country protecting us fat cat pen pushers spending your money. Rather than recognise there sacrifice and give them a little something back.
Lets see the accounts that show how two million pounds is saved. I have had dealings with the council in the past with regards to financial figures, and they seem to be at a loss themselves when questioned. Further more as an ex serviceman it is really a slap in the face when you are away for 90% of the time, for your local authority to say hear are the facilities you could be using if you were not in another country protecting us fat cat pen pushers spending your money. Rather than recognise there sacrifice and give them a little something back. paidmydues
  • Score: 0

7:40pm Thu 17 Jul 14

frankripples says...

Disgusting like every other minority or vulnerable group the fat cats who never take a pay cut but do take plenty of bungs find minor savings whilst looking for major headlines.
Ex service personnel deserve a free membership as a lot and I know from experience find exercise a release from years of torment in various areas of operations! People need to get behind this disgraceful idea and at the very least let those who served well and have a membership enjoy it till it expires as simply refusing them entry feels similar to the governments total lack of support for returning veterans. Truly awful idea.
Disgusting like every other minority or vulnerable group the fat cats who never take a pay cut but do take plenty of bungs find minor savings whilst looking for major headlines. Ex service personnel deserve a free membership as a lot and I know from experience find exercise a release from years of torment in various areas of operations! People need to get behind this disgraceful idea and at the very least let those who served well and have a membership enjoy it till it expires as simply refusing them entry feels similar to the governments total lack of support for returning veterans. Truly awful idea. frankripples
  • Score: 0

7:54pm Thu 17 Jul 14

frankripples says...

Here is a radical thought as well, all the years you are out of the country on detachments how about giving us all back our council taxes? If that's too much what about a 25% reduction for each limb missing or shrapnel wound as some use 50% less than others purely through not having the luxury of a full or undamaged body!
Here is a radical thought as well, all the years you are out of the country on detachments how about giving us all back our council taxes? If that's too much what about a 25% reduction for each limb missing or shrapnel wound as some use 50% less than others purely through not having the luxury of a full or undamaged body! frankripples
  • Score: 1

8:24pm Wed 23 Jul 14

Cool Hand H says...

Since leaving the forces, I have been plagues with bouts of depression.Certainly a component of my illness was down to my time in the RAF overseas in theatres of war. I have seen some things I wished I had not seen. Exercise has been of massive benefit in helping me during my down days and to see this membership taken away from me during a quick 5 minutes discussion at the council, fills me with a feeling of insignificance and sadness. What worth our brave efforts? ..not much it seems.

We Veterans do not ask from much and we receive even less and we complaint even less than that...Easy target.
Since leaving the forces, I have been plagues with bouts of depression.Certainly a component of my illness was down to my time in the RAF overseas in theatres of war. I have seen some things I wished I had not seen. Exercise has been of massive benefit in helping me during my down days and to see this membership taken away from me during a quick 5 minutes discussion at the council, fills me with a feeling of insignificance and sadness. What worth our brave efforts? ..not much it seems. We Veterans do not ask from much and we receive even less and we complaint even less than that...Easy target. Cool Hand H
  • Score: 0

4:53pm Thu 24 Jul 14

paidmydues says...

Ref comment from Cool Hand H. I have emailed Frank Field MP and he is to discuss the matter with the authority. I as you, had issues coming back in to civilian life and have pointed out as you so rightly say, that for us its therapy. Moving on it could be seen as a cost saving, as time and resources are not used within the NHS. This should be a national debate our ex service people are being let down time and time again, and its about time we had some support from the very people who are quick to use us in any theatre they see fit, with no thought of how to help the many that have given so much.
Ref comment from Cool Hand H. I have emailed Frank Field MP and he is to discuss the matter with the authority. I as you, had issues coming back in to civilian life and have pointed out as you so rightly say, that for us its therapy. Moving on it could be seen as a cost saving, as time and resources are not used within the NHS. This should be a national debate our ex service people are being let down time and time again, and its about time we had some support from the very people who are quick to use us in any theatre they see fit, with no thought of how to help the many that have given so much. paidmydues
  • Score: 0
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