SWIM Flintshire has been saved from Flintshire County Council’s swingeing budget cuts – safeguarding the county’s hopes of producing Commonwealth and Olympic-standard swimmers.
The elite swimming programme came under threat in October when the council listed its plans to cut leisure services as they begin to feel the pinch.
The Chronicle stepped into the row and led a high-profile campaign by the programme’s head coach Stewart Clamp and parents of swimmers involved to apply pressure to the decision makers and highlight the folly of cutting the four-year-old programme.
In a short time the programme has already produced one Wales international – Hope open water sensation and British Open Water Swimmer of the Year 2010 Tom Allen – and the current crop, including Charlotte Bryan, are tipped for great things, starting with next year’s Youth Commonwealth Games where four swimmers have made the shortlist.
With help from Swim Wales, who have reorganised financing to provide £10,000 per year to Swim Flintshire, and a promise to integrate local clubs more into the feeder structure of Swim Flintshire, the programme has saved itself and the ambitions of the young athletes involved.
Flintshire County Council director of lifelong learning, Ian Budd said: “We welcome the close involvement of Swim Wales and Swim Flintshire in helping to develop a sustainability package for elite swimming.
“We are still in consultation over the status of the county’s swimming development officer, but it is important to continue to emphasise that the learn to swim programme will continue as before.”
The Chronicle was first to tell Clamp the programme had been saved.
“It has been tough,” he said. “Not for me, but particularly for the swimmers. Many of them are in their teens and at that time of life emotions are difficult to control.
“Having all this going on around them and the fear they may lose everything they have worked for has affected some of them and this is a great relief for all of us.
“Martin Woodruff from Swim Wales has been a great help, coming up for meetings and dong all he can to preserve the programme and he will continue to keep an eye on what we do and how we move forward.
“I am sure that the support we received from the Chronicle has also played a part in preserving our future.”
Swim Flintshire will now work with the council to create a smooth pathway from learning to swim, through local clubs to competitive swimming and possible elite training.
“It is a healthy development,” said Clamp. “Having a close relationship with home clubs is vital to maximising the potential for success and we need to do more.
“Hopefully this has opened some people’s eyes to the talent we have in this county and the fact that we can offer training of a standard that can give talented swimmers the chance to appear at a Commonwealth Games or possibly an Olympic Games.
“That is the potential we have at the club, and while London 2012 may come too soon, now our future is secured I would hope to see some of our swimmers representing Wales at the 2014 Commonwealths in Glasgow.”