School pools to close for most of the year

SCHOOL swimming pools will close for the majority of the year in order to save £100,000, Education has announced.

Roger Allsopp, the oldest man to swim the English Channel, is concerned about the impact that reducing school pool openings will have on children’s swimming ability. (Picture by Steve Sarre, 1328229)
Roger Allsopp, the oldest man to swim the English Channel, is concerned about the impact that reducing school pool openings will have on children’s swimming ability. (Picture by Steve Sarre, 1328229)

SCHOOL swimming pools will close for the majority of the year in order to save £100,000, Education has announced.

But the department has assured parents that opening most of its 16 pools for just 12 weeks, out of a school year of 38 weeks, will not interfere with its goal for children to leave with a minimum level of competence: being able to swim 25 metres unaided.

‘Learning to swim is an important skill which we aim to teach all primary school pupils. This is especially true living on an island,’ said director of education Alan Brown.

‘The reality is that many schools only use their swimming pools for a small amount of time during the school year, but the cost of maintaining and operating our pools costs the department almost £500,000 annually.

‘We have worked with schools to identify how best to achieve a reduction in costs without undermining the department’s policy that all children should have an opportunity to be taught swimming at primary school.’

Comments for: "School pools to close for most of the year"

Meeshka

How stupid! I'm sure there are other cutbacks that can be made within schools. The government moan that there are too many obese and unfit kids and now they do this!

Living on an island I think it's very important for children to swim and now with more people struggling for money Beau Sejour isn't an option for everyone. Come on states, sort it out!

PLP

Watcher made a good point on another thread.

Why are Education looking at cutting back on swimming pools to save £100,000 when there are too many primary schools on the island? Surely it is better to have fewer primary schools but with excellent facilities?

It's scrimping around looking for pennies when there are pounds to be saved, with negligible impact on the delivery of education.

Rachel

Agree 100% PLP,

In addition, i would ask why isn't education not looking into how to use these facilities to raise money? Many kids do swimming lessons out of school hours, Beau sejour and Kings has a substantial waiting list for primary school kids who want to do lessons. Why aren't extra lessons offered at a cost after school at the school pool? Many cases would be better for parents because of the convenience. School holidays would be another time where extra lessons could be given.

Neil Forman

Rachel

That is an excellent idea!

Rachel

In addition, the vast majority of parents would be willing to pay a small fee for swimming lessons to continue. I'm sure that say £2 per child per lesson would go a long way towards keeping the pool open and of course the fee would be voluntary (non compulsary) so that those who could not afford it can still benefit from lessons.

Nicolette

When it comes down to it, there are quite a few pools in Guernsey. Any that have funding from the SOG should work in co-operation with each other. Especially family time and lessons for all ages. Maybe compete against those in the private sector (Hotels and health clubs). A lot of people pay hotels (a lot of )money to use facilities, mainly their pool. A busy pool isn't nice for guests, I experienced 3 hotels last year alone that were busy with non-residents. It can't be that hard for all to learn to swim and do so when desire without a losing so much money.

MrsM

100% agree - another example of faffing around with minor details, and not seeing the bigger picture.

Matt Fallaize

PLP,

The reason could be that through the FTP (Financial Transformation Programme) the States has demanded budget cuts immediately whereas closing primary schools takes rather longer and therefore the savings would be obtained over a longer period of time.

Education probably wants to avoid overspending its revenue budget and wants to meet its FTP targets this year and next in order to avoid the sort of fate which befell Health and Social Services when they were confronted with the scale of their overspend at the end of 2012.

Perhaps this is what happens when you set rather arbitrary savings targets to appease those who want the States to flex its muscles at public spending.

However, don't believe that the announcement about swimming pools means that Education is not prepared to address the surplus places in primary schools. No education authority with access to the relevant evidence could conclude anything other than that at least two and probably three primary schools should be merged with others and I don't believe the present Education Department will ignore that evidence. Watch this space.

PLP

Thanks for responding Matt. I can't help but think that if this is the kind of cuts the FTP is churning out then it really isn't worth the paper it's written on.

Penny pinching isn't what we need, as invariably anything saved will end up being swallowed up somewhere else - probably in FTP admin costs. Surely taking a long term view and reviewing the status of primary schools within the next 12 months would be sufficient?

Spartacus

This is penny pinching at it's worst.

OK so the swimming pools closure isn't going to damage any educational outcomes but the pools will be lying dormant and they have been built as a resource to be used for the benefit of children, what a waste.

Children are taught to swim, be safe and possibly save others, which is all the more important here in Guernsey because we happen to be surrounded by sea.

Whilst I agree with Matt's theory of why it has been done, this is a cut, not an efficiency saving, and it should not be necessary.

I hope that in taking this drastic measure they are still thinking of ways to restore this service and make it work in the longer term.

Meanwhile we are still paying millions to subsidise the private colleges and the primary schools have hundreds of spare spaces, easy big bucks winners yet procrastination continues while they scrape the bottom of the barrel.

Matt Fallaize

PLP,

Reviewing (and then reducing) the number of primary schools, as you suggest, is entirely necessary, but, no, it would not be sufficient...not to meet the Education Committee's FTP savings targets anyway.

Closing two primary schools as recommended by Education in 2009 would save about £750,000 a year. There is growing evidence that a third school could be closed, but even allowing for inflation since 2009 I doubt the total savings would be more than around £1.5m. a year.

I think I am right in saying that Education need to find spending cuts of around £7m. a year to meet their FTP obligations.

On the figures I have seen, restricting the use of swimming pools delivers less than 2% of that savings target, but even closing two primary schools might well deliver much less than 20% of the target.

PLP

If shutting down two or three ENTIRE schools doesn't even deliver 20% of the required savings, what on earth will Education need to cut to meet the remaining 80%?

Even if Sparty got her way and the College subsidies were cut, we're still nowhere near the target. Other things like the Schools Music Service which have also been banded about as potential areas for the chop wouldn't make much of a dent either. Some folk will no doubt raise the issue of HQ staff but how many would need to be cut to make a dent?

I'm struggling to see how Education can deliver this target without causing some serious damage to core education provision.

Matt Fallaize

PLP,

PLP,

The 2011 States accounts (2012 accounts are due out shortly) advise that 'Education Office' accounted for 6% of the Education Committee's total revenue expenditure of £75,184,000.

Incidentally the other percentages were: 51% on schools, 10% on the College of FE, 15% on schools and pupil support services, 1% on the apprenticeship scheme, 7% on grants to colleges, 2% on grants to libraries and 8% on higher education.

According to these figures, published by Treasury & Resources, reducing the 'Education Office' to zero, i.e. getting rid of all the civil servants up there, would save £4.5m. a year. Cutting their numbers immediately by, say, 25% would realise not much more than 15% of Education's remaining FTP savings target.

By my calculations, Education would meet their FTP savings target if over the next 18 months they cut their central office costs by 25%, closed three primary schools, terminated every penny of the grants to the two libraries (Guille-Alles and Priaulx) and cut higher education grants by 50%.

Mind you, the position for Education is not as bad as it is for Health. Their budget for this year provides for a cut in spending of 6% over the past three years and they are still millions short of their FTP savings target.

Old Style Swimming

Swimming in sea is very different. Maybe it is time to go back to the days of taking children to the bathing pools.

Ah, no... only schools within reasonable walking distance could go. The rest would spend the their time waiting for a bus!

One wheel on my wagon.

The Islands little darlings walking.....heavens what ever next! Break out the 4x4 convoy fashion brigade and clog up the roads, far better. Bus, Whats that ?.....

mrspinthepantry

Can anyone out there confirm something for me:-

Le Murier High (yuk, hate that Americanism)

They are now surrounded by trees/ hedges but I believe there are about 10 big gas tanks down there. I assume this is to provide heating for the school.

If so ARE THE STATES INSANE?

Heating a building that size with gas, on an island where gas is by far and away the most expensive and inefficient heating option. I'm surprised they can afford to heat the tea in the staff room let alone a swimming pool.

(for once I'm not 100% I have my facts right here, if the school is NOT heated by gas I'm prepared to be corrected)

Johno

Then why are we spending millions on a new pool at Les Beaucamps?

Carlos

Surely we can just pipe the hot air coming out of the custard castle and heat the whole island, let alone a few swimming pools.

Carlos

And they do not struggle in producing substantial quantities of the necessary "material" for a Methane fuel farm!

Island Wide Voting

Sounds like a sensible idea

As a youth I learned to swim off 'the big pier' down Les Amarreurs where I tended to spend about ten hours each day during the summer holidays

No worries about sun cream and wussy sun hats in the 1950's

Notafish

Certainly at my son's school, his class seem to spend four weeks a year only swimming, which seems ridiculous.

I think it is now down to parents to take their children swimming either outside at La Vallette, or the beach, or pay for their children to take lessons at Beau Sejour. £2.60 a dip is not a huge amount of money to pay is it?

Something has to give, and from my perspective - yes, it is vital that kids learn to swim, but it is not vital that they do this at school. Perhaps the time saved on swimming lessons, could be used to teach them more academic subjects?

Ed

"Perhaps the time saved on swimming lessons could be used to teach them more academic subjects ?" Very good idea.

Charlie G

.....not only use the time saved ,to put towards academic subjects,,also subjects like,learning all about respect and tolerance towards others!.

Ed

Those are things that should be taught at home- school is for gaining knowledge, nurturing and developing skills necessary for success in many spheres of competence and day-to-day life.

A le Page

The root cause of this is the pressure on the Education dept to save money, similar to HSSD etc. This has to be short-term thinking, and ultimately false economy. Health and education should be top priorities, not singled out for cutbacks like this. There are a number of staff who are also becoming increasingly disillusioned, not a good sign for the future of our society...

Matt Fallaize

A Le Page,

Health and Education have not been singled out for budget savings. In proportion to the sizes of their respective budgets, their savings targets are no more ambitious than those to which other committees are working.

Of course the effects on services of Health or Education cutting, say, 3% of their budget are likely to be much greater than the effects of, say, Public Services cutting 3% of their budget. The differential effects are accentuated by some departments having much more scope to balance their budgets by increasing fees and charges, an action which would be far less acceptable in the provision of healthcare and education.

Health and Education could be spared the demand of cutting spending, but their budgets are so large as a proportion of total States expenditure that doing so would probably destroy the States savings programme.

I am not arguing that your points about healthcare and education are in any way wrong. I am just trying to explain that if those areas are spared cuts, the inevitable tax increases to balance the books will need to be larger still.

Carlos

Matt

Is there any way of showing that the Civil Service has genuinely comprehended that the people of Guernsey do not want raised taxes and reduced services.

They want the civil service to face up to the harsh realities of the real world.

accountability,efficiency, customer service (yeah that's what we are).

We know that some services might not stack up on a commercial basis and are subsidised by the tax payer but we are paying the subsidy.

Many also suspect that it is the poor administration and management of these services and the civil servants that do not stack up, this is the subsidy we are not happy to pay!

I do not see any announcements about savings made by actually doing a decent job and applying any accountability or quality performance measures?

The impression is that the civil service ignore the calls to evolve, threaten to make cuts on a few emotive subjects and the odd ridiculous one to get attention.

Until everyone will give up and raise taxes so they can carry on as they are?

I appreciate that you might not be in a position to respond on here but you are one of the few brave souls to put your head above the parapet.

Watch out that normally means making you the minister of an area of the civil service and letting the civil servants gradually remove your will to live by stifling all good intentions with their bureaucracy and incompetence.

Questor

Carlos,

There seems to be an assumption that all departments were previously operating inefficiently and that savings can therefore be made without affecting service provision. However, if the level of inefficiency (or indeed incompetence as you note) was minimal I don't see how expenditure can be reduced by 10% without becoming noticeable in some way.

If the operating cost of these pools really is the £500k suggested then perhaps we'll see this area revisited in future if sufficient savings can't be delivered from other areas of expenditure.

Matt Fallaize

Carlos,

Re. your last paragraph. Please don't be too concerned: I don't think there is much chance of them doing that!

Following the development of zero-ten and the virtual abolition of company tax, public expenditure has already been restrained for some years, not entirely but largely without the need for significant cuts in services or increases in taxation (the initial increases in social security contributions notwithstanding), ergo despite perceptions to the contrary the public sector must have become more efficient - not as efficient as some would advocate perhaps, but somewhat more efficient nonetheless.

I agree with you though. There are additional efficiency gains to realise and see no reason why they could not save further seven-figure sums annually. Then there is the increasingly compelling case to reform the public sector pension scheme, which should save more.

However, the scale of the task should not be under-estimated. At 20% or less of GDP, public expenditure in Guernsey was low before the expectation that spending cuts could balance the persistent deficit of circa £30m. a year post-zero-ten.

The necessary advice was made available when zero-ten was introduced.

The economic consultants Oxera said: "...saving revenue expenditure of £30m in 2011 through improved efficiency could be difficult to achieve…This reduction in expenditure would come after more than five years of keeping expenditure constant in real terms (while the economy has grown significantly). At this point, achieving such a sizeable reduction in expenditure may not be possible through efficiency gains alone. To make such savings, it may be necessary to reduce public sector output or introduce some form of user charges.” The economy has grown, but perhaps not as 'significantly' as forecast in 2006, and if anything this has made balancing the books even harder.

The respected economist Rosemary Radcliffe went further. She said: “On the expenditure side, constraining capital expenditure too much can have deleterious economic consequences. And whilst constraining revenue expenditure growth to below the RPI is a reasonable target for the short term, it is unlikely that it can be maintained into the medium term without real cuts in services and possible economic damage.”

These days the Policy Council tends not to engage the services of economists who say such things.

Mike

This is ridiculous:

£500,000 to maintain pools for 12 months (£42k per month)

£100,000 saved by shutting pools for 9 months

Therefore now £400,000 for 3 months use (£133k per month)

The saving simply isn’t worth the loss of usage. Keep them open and if needed try and make more use of them. Let them out to clubs, groups etc in the evenings/weekends.

Every child should have opportunity to learn to swim in a sheltered safe environment. 3 months per year is not sufficient and the saving is paltry.

For the guys asking about Beau Camp – this has always been on the plans and will also be used by Castel Junior and Infant schools allowing them to shut their pool creating a saving.

For those spouting that kids can do other physical activity. You wouldn’t stop teaching one subject and say they can do more of another subject to compensate. It’s the same with physical activity. Kid need a diverse range of physical activity and swimming is an essential part of that.

I have 3 children and try and take them swimming once a week and also pay for them to have lessons at BSJ each week but not everybody has the opportunity to do this. Just because the parents can’t afford/are unable to take their children swimming it shouldn’t stop the child from having the opportunity to learn. The purpose of schools is to teach children and for the sake of a well-rounded (healthy) population this can’t just be limited to in class lessons.

Rant over

A Hird

Get your Priorities right SoG!!!!! instead of styping our future generations just raise taxes. this whole crises that you wont admit is hitting the island is due to decades of complacency and the belief that the island is protected from global economic matters. you're not!! now it'll hit big time and if that triggers a depression and departure of key industries you'll suffer even more. the UK is not the enemy, take some guidence!

DA

The whole crisis as you call it is down to our wonderful zero10 strategy and the massive hole in States revenue that it has has caused.

Matt Fallaize

DA,

Yes, it is, but do you think there was any viable alternative to reforming company tax in a way which was bound to hit States' revenue massively?

kevin

Matt,

I don't think there was any viable alternative to reforming company tax BUT there is a viable alternative to increase States revenue - in addition to the FTP the personal income tax rate should be raised, I believe mainland UK residents earning over £38k a year are paying 40% income tax so there must be some scope for raising our income tax rate on an incremental scale according to earnings (maybe up to 25-30%) whilst still remaining a relatively low tax jurisdiction.

Unfortunately this option does not seem to be on the radar of our government - can't upset the higher earners can we?

As normal the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Matt Fallaize

Kevin,

In fairness to Treasury & Resources and Social Security, I think that increasing income tax is considered in the consultation papers released as part of their joint tax and benefits review.

kevin

A Hird,

I couldn't agree more - saving a few grand here and there at the expense of cutting islanders services and quality of life is not the answer.

As you rightly say it is time to raise taxes, in particular for those that can afford to pay them - without the assistance provided through the zero-ten scheme (which is costing everyone) many of the islands higher earners would not be in the comfortable financial situation that they are now.

Carlos

And another cry of Joy from the Civil Service and the Unions, give that man his gold plated pension.

Carlos

Ahh the answer every Civil Servant wanted to hear, a free Pass to continue being unaccountable, inefficient and milking the tax payer all day long.

Let's try cutting multi layers of Senior Incompetent Civil Servants rather than Services.

Raising standards of performance not Taxes.

You can hear them laughing in their Ivory Towers.

Disgruntled

Seems to me more point teaching kids swimming rather than drama on a small island.

Ed

You can learn to swim in the sea, though.

JohnT

We live on an island with many superb and safe beaches, so again we are going soft on the youngsters, by giving them heated pools. I spent my childhood swimming throughout the summers at Rouse, Pembroke, and all other bays nearby.

To my mind I was a lot fitter and healthier due to the salt water and distances swum.

Why don't children learn to swim in the sea, and why do they need heated pools in the summer.

Oh and while I am on my high horse, I cycled to school, or walked,

Seems to me that children these days, have lost the use of their legs, with the strength going to their fingers for computer use.

Now I feel much better thank you.

benefit

I don't think it is down to lazinest that a lot of children don't walk to school, it is parents that think the roads are too dangerous. There are a lot more cars on the roads these days.

I just feel that children are having something taken away from them when the cutbacks could be made somewhere else

Ed

Or revenues could be raised... How about taxing certain car parks ?

becks

Just a small aside comment.

I regularly drive through The Gravee just after schools "chuck out" and see a young girl, about 8 or 9 walking home towards The Rohais, with a large bag, and very aware of the traffic when crossing roads.

However I have noticed that she now has an i-pod with earphones and her attention to the traffic has been distracted so much so the she nearly walked off the pavement in front of a car.

If the parents of this young lady are reading this forum, and recognize who she could be, then please take notice and tell her not to use the i-pod when walking home.

I would hate to drive past an ambulance tending to her after an accident.

Burdock

What colour is her school uniform? This may help in identifying her.

becks

I`m pretty sure it`s a grey dress and jumper/coat which I think is Notre Dame Du Rosaire school.

Burdock

Grey tends to be the colour associated with Blanchelande however I think it's unlikely that one of their pupils would be in that area in the middle of the afternoon. Notre Dame children wear a royal blue sweatshirt and Vauvert a red sweatshirt.

Mike

Throughout the summer you swam at Rouse and Pembroke so did I but I learnt at Haute Capelles (in the 70's) in a safe secure environment with a shallow end, no currents and no surf waves. Fine swimming in the sea over the school summer holidays when water temp is at its warmest (17C) but over the winter water temps can drop to 4C. Be realistic the seas around Guernsey are not a safe place for young children to learn to swim.

On you other points - again fine in the summer and nice weather however young children walking and cycling home in the winter when its dark, raining and windy is simply not safe.

Matt Fallaize

John T,

Are all children really so badly let down these days?

I'm sure some children do still visit the beach and swim there occasionally, some of them may even walk to school or use the bus, and contrary to popular belief not all of them have their own computers, mobile phones, games consoles and so on.

Is the experience of my children today really all that different to my experience of childhood in the 80s and my parents' experience of childhood in the 50s and 60s?

Ed

I would call the actual beaches "safe"- I've seen loads of litter on the sand as well as sharp pieces from broken bottles lying just below the surface of the sand. I wouldn't call the tides particularly reliable either.

Though many children may appear to have lost their legs, you will find that some have compensated for a lack of natural exercise by regularly playing sport(s).

The Truth

"I wouldn't call the tides particularly reliable either"......erm, as long as the moon goes round the earth and the earth goes round the sun the tides are just about the most reliable thing there is!

Predictable hundreds of years in advance, but you can't rely on them!?

You don't half spout some nonsense you eh.

DA

Ed, The tide comes in and goes out every day without fail..just how reliable do you want it to be?

Ed

Both of you have misunderstood what I meant by 'reliable'. I meant that they can't be relied upon with regards to the bather's safety as the water can both go up the beach and recede quite quickly in some locations over here. Also , I don't spout nonsense as you libelously assert; you just tried to be clever and make me look foolish- maybe so that other people could have joined in and acted in an infantile manner. Speculation, but...

Spartacus

I knew what you meant Ed!

becks

Ed,

you don`t need anyone to make you look foolish about your statements, you are doing it all by yourself.

Have you got x-ray vision to be able to see "sharp pieces from broken bottles lying JUST BELOW the surface of the sand."

The tide lines clearly show the high water marks and if one reads the tide timetables anyone can know when the tide is in or out.

All that is needed is for the children to be taught how to read the signs, A PARENT`S JOB, and if they don`t know then they should find out, THAT`S THEIR JOB for THEIR children`s safety.

If parents aren`t happy that their children don`t understand then go to the beaches with them. THAT`S YOUR JOB (or don`t you care that much to make the effort).

A child`s education of life is not only the responsibility of the schools as a lot of LAZY parents think it is.

Ed

becks

An idiot will tell you that there are sharp pieces just beneath the sand. You just need to dig a little bit and you can see- quite easily- shards of glass or whatever. I really worry about the intellectual state of online communities sometimes...

I am not going to bother repeating what I meant by 'reliable' as you can see that for yourself. How come Spartacus manages to understand what I am saying, but a large amount of other 'posters' completely misinterpret my points and dismiss me as foolish ? I wonder what that proves ?...

Rachel

Perhaps they should stick with this plan for a year, on the proviso that they use the savings to install some green energy heating options like solar panels so that the pools can stay open all year round from then on end with ongoing savings plan still intact. I think it would be well tolerated if it were just a short term thing and a win win in the end.

Spartacus

Great idea.

Island Wide Voting

Great idea only if the pounds,shillings and pence stack up

The article says we have 16 school pools.Will 100K cover the cost of installing solar panels on all of them?

Is it myth or fact that solar panels tend to take in the region of 25 years to pay for themselves?

benefit

Instead of making cutbacks that will affect the young why are we not making cutbacks on the benefits being paid out to those who cannot be bothered to go out to work. Why should the children suffer!

Ed

The children are hardly suffering by not being able to swim at school. That time could be spent on academic lessons. I doubt if it would be a significant loss anyway as, when I was at the new St Sampson's High, I used the pool two hours per week for a mere few weeks during the entirety of my time there.

benefit

Ok suffer was the wrong word, but I feel that they are making cutbacks in the wrong area. Don't take away something that a child is enjoying, take away a benefit that a lazy so en so is enjoying.

Matt Fallaize

Benefit,

You conclude by asking: "Why should the children suffer?"

Unfortunately, under your plan to cut benefits, perhaps significantly in order to realise substantial savings, it is children who would suffer most of all. Well, children and pensioners, who are the single largest group of supplementary beneficiaries.

benefit

I am purely saying to cut benefits to those that are capable of going out to work but don't because they cannot be bothered. Some benefits make it too easy for people to stay at home. These are the benefits that should be looked into and reduced. A lot of those people are better off than those that work hard everyday, struggle to pay a mortgage a bring up their children.

I have not stated anywhere to cut benefits for pensioners. The majority of these people have paid their stamp for years and in my opinion don't receive enough because again those that don't work get something for nothing.

concerned parent

Is does not matter how many pools are open or closed. They are cutting the amount of PE staff from a number of schools. This will mean that the staff to pupil ratio is too high for them to even teach swimming in their PE lessons.

soph

When I was young swimming lessons consisted of a bus ride to ladies pool at bathing places.

Cold nasty wet changing rooms

Freezing water when summer term started

But I learnt! Never forgot 1st time I floated at Chouet. I was lucky as mum & dad took us children swimming in the sea every other day in warm weather!

Guern

Has anyone spoken to the Management at Beau Sejour Swim school about this, I think not or shall I say I know not, they provide the staff for most of the schools swimming lessons, has anyone thought of the fact that if you turn all the equipment off for nine months and then expect to work , think again huge repair bills, remember the old plant for the water which was never used then when needed just would not work.

From my limited knowledge of pools if you drain them the let them dry out the tiles all begin to fall off.

The Grammar school one of the deepest in the Island only going to be used for one term, when it was used every night and every weekend up till a couple of years ago, again out of hours by Beau Sejour and Guernsey swimming club, and other clubs life saving teaching diving, canoe club many others.

Yes perhaps close some of the older pools, like St.Andrews, but let the youngsters use Beaucamps new pool or the Grammar, make better use of the better pools, and close the small expensive ones, completely.

But lets ask all those involved and make sensibile decision with proper information rather than going off half gun and end up costing more than it was supposed to save

So come on education speak with the clubs that could and would still use your pools out of hours, and rather than closing them, to save money lets use them and make money from them for you.

They are for the use of Islanders who paid for them in the first place not just a select few.

All the arguments about insurance etc can all be sorted by those who want to use them if they are serious about it.

Questor

I would have thought it would be the large pools that are the most expensive...?

Matt Fallaize

Guern,

I thought that when I was told that the Grammar pool was included in the 'cuts'. Mothballing (if that's the right word) that pool for most of the year does seem a rather regrettable waste of a superb facility, does it not?

becks

Why not just turn off the heating? It`ll help toughen up the little darlings and, if swimming lessons were held as first teaching period in the day, it will waken them up ready to study.

WAKEY, WAKEY, RISE AND SHINE.

High School Teacher

£100,000 a year savings? We could keep the situation as it is and Education could get rid of some of their senior civil servants who have very little impact on the way I teach in my classroom.

'Communications Director' springs to mind...

GM

High School Teacher

I'm not in favour of publicly singling out specific jobs or individuals to be cut, but your drift is spot on.

Politics

This must surely be a political game to incite unrest and " prove" that spending cuts cannot be made.

They target the provision of a valuable skill so we have cries of we must raise taxes.

How many jobs have been cut to make cost savings? How many pay freezes? Anything outsourced?

We have a demographic time bomb which is not being addressed. We need to remove the defined benefit pension scheme from the States and increase the retirement age.

Raising taxes will destroy our economy. The UK is reducing taxes.

Everything else is playing politics.

GM

Politics

Yes - you've got it. Nail on the head.

Why can't our politicians see it though? Cut the inessential jobs and real savings will quickly be made.

kevin

GM,

The politicians probably can see it but they. don't see the savings being made as being anywhere near enough

GM

Kevin

They can see it, but they don't have the balls to do what needs to be done.

kevin

Politics,

We can cut many Civil Service jobs, give pay freezes and stop the pension scheme - none of this will make up for what has been lost through zero-ten, taxes WILL go up.

GM

Kevin

As I've explained to you previously on numerous other threads in the past, we had no option but to go with zero-10 in order to keep the finance industry. Without the finance industry we would have several schools closing due to a massive loss of jobs, not just their swimming pools!

kevin

GM,

I'm well aware that there was no option to zero-ten but I can't see the States balancing the books through cuts in staffing and services alone, taxes will need to be increased.

GM

Kevin

I almost agree with you. The States COULD balance the books through cuts in staffing, and without probably a significant cut in services because of the plethora of non-essential public sectors which have been endlessly created over the past couple of decades, but they just don't have the stomach for it.

As a result, we will end up paying more taxes. Personally, I think the best option is a combination of higher taxes and public sector shrinkage, with a new higher rate band of income tax being introduced for those earning more than £100k (and yes, I am one of those), but the tax increase is likely to go down like a pork pie at a barmitzvah if it is not accompanied by public sector shrinkage.

You know it, I know it, the politicians know it and even some of the public sector know it - there is plenty of scope for public sector shrinkage. We just need politicians with the balls to make it happen.

Devil Advocate

So glad to see that the colleges do not have to close their pools - thank you for those nice subsidies for us wealthy parents whilst the state sector struggles (and yes, would pay for my kids to go private regardless of the cost)...

in reply

not sure if the colleges have pools actually - I know Blanchelande college don't and I think Ladies College is an outdoor pool which would only be used in the summer. Not sure about Elizabeth college. Anyone know for sure? Also not every primary school has a pool and some only have outdoor ones which are only open for approx. 12 weeks in warmer months. We should all get our facts right on this before commenting really.

Burdock

Ladies College have an old outdoor pool which was originally shared with the Girls Grammar School when it was situated at Rosaire Avenue. I believe the Elizabeth College pool is still uncovered.

Island Wide Voting

Burdock is right

During the 60's my cousin was a part time pool cleaner there

He had to give it up in the end as his eyesight deteriorated

Town Dweller

C'mon folks. My schooldays are not that far in the distant past. Who

Can honestly say when they were at school they looked forward to the thought of a swimming lesson on a cold November or February morning?

The States need to save money and everything they suggest is the proverbial sacred cow to the moaners and whingers. Kids don't like swimming at school in the depths of winter and the States can save a tidy sum by following their wishes.

Guern

Give the schools the power to employ staff and run their own budgets, and then you would only need a handful of the 80+ staff employed at Education dept, say you loose 50% what a saving that would make.

As GM has said it just need someone with the balls to make the civil service shrink, another department that is well over staffed is Enviroment just walking into the traffics department at Bulwer Avenue, far to many doing very little that benefits us the public, and that is only the ones you can see, let alone those upstairs.

Spartacus

Guern

Sorry that's totally incorrect about education.

The civil service could shrink if we are prepared to diminish or lose services. Those in favour of such ideas are generally those who are not in need of the services.

GM

Spartacus

Not necessarily. The civil service could shrink if it simply became more efficient. The whole idea of computer systems is to carry out day to day administrative tasks in a more efficient manner.

The States have invested tens of millions in computer systems in the past decade and we hear that they just don't work properly. Do we see the IT department accountable anyone for these failings? How about the civil servants who negligently "oversaw" the system designs ? "Have another go another one". Whoops -that one has failed as well.

"Accountability" and "inefficiencies". Two words which are not recognised by the civil service and which result in the States employing probably "high hundreds" more than would otherwise be necessary.

Let's pluck a figure out of the air. Let's assume that the States today employs 800 people more than would be necessary if the IT department had done its job in recent years. Assume an average total employment cost, including pension, of £50,000 per employee. 800 x £50,000 is £40 million a year saved. Yes, £40m a year.

I sure know where I would be looking to make savings. Get in proper IT specialists and systems designers with proven track records in successfully designing and implementing IT systems specifically for the public sector. Make everything more efficient and shed the excess administrative paper-pushers.

Where there's a will there's a way. Sadly I don't see any "will" at all to do what's so obvious to so many in the private sector.

I've said it before on other threads. Over the past two decades the public sector workforce has grown far more than the population has grown, in percentage terms. Yet computer technology should be enabling a static number of employees to do probably 20 times as much as work as they would have done two decades ago. So why is the States of Guernsey not seemingly benefiting from greater efficiencies. What do all these extra public sector workers actually do compared with two decades ago? What are all these extra jobs?

Somebody, please tell me if I am missing something obvious.

Jack

Gm one thing you are missing comparing guernsey now with two decades ago is the greater complexity of law now, eg there was no children's law in 1990s which requires new functions of state and additional workloads, life is far more complex and states have introduced more legislation.

Also your example gets to a high number of savings but I don't think that IT could have replaced 800 people? How do you get that number?

Spartacus

GM

You are not the only one to question the civil service staff levels and claim that there is apparent widespread inefficiency. I know that.

However where is the evidence to prove it?

Some of our elected politicians tell us this public perception is a myth and that the civil service is leaner than it seems. Name one politician who has said what you are saying?

Although the recent IT teething problems have been well publicised, where is the evidence that overall systems are inadequate rather than optimal?

In the past 20 years I believe there has been an increase in worldwide regulatory type requirements and protocols which didn't previously exist. It stands to reason that there would be a few more pen pushers required to tick all the boxes and make sure Guernsey is compliant. How do you suggest they get around that?

Nevertheless I gather the ratio of civil servants to population is still favourable in comparison with other places and I would need to see stats to convince me otherwise, and even then economies of scale come in to play when you take into account that Guernsey is a mini country.

So if efficiency is not the problem and there is ongoing pressure to make cuts, it stands to reason that the only way to do this is by cutting services. I only have an issue with that if such cuts impact those who already experience the short straw of income inequality including health inequity and other disadvantages which cause wider ramifications for our society.

Carlos

GM

I suspect that there is nothing wrong with any of the computer systems implemented.

However if the process is inefficient and there is no will to change then the new system will also be inefficient by design (self preservation built in).

Without the will to change then you just waste money and blame it on the system.

No one is held accountable for poor design or willingness to change their processes.

Masetorq

GM

I'm afraid there's no point in blaming the IT departments. They are often just told to implement what has been sold to the Senior Management and States Members by sharp suited grifters, er, I mean salespeople.

The people making the purchasing decisions would be Departmental Chief Officers, the States Head of ITC and the Head of HR for Policy Council. (I won't print their names, you can find them easily enough)

I tell you all systems can look pretty swish in well rehearsed presentations.

The problem is by the time the IT departments get to see the new systems properly it's a fait accompli. The contract is signed and the salespeople are sipping sangrias next to an infinity pool somewhere lovely and hot!

GM

Jack

Yes, more complexity of law than 20 years ago. Some of course is unavoidable. Others have been cases where we have blindly adopted UK or EU law for the sake of it.

I did infer that my figure of 800 was just an assumption, and that if it was correct then that's the sort of savings which would result. It would require a very detailed review which would meet resistance at every point, but you get my drift I am sure.

Spartacus

As above. Getting detailed numbers is impossible to a mere member of the public. But the easy response is that if sophisticated computer systems are not foing to save on labour costs, then why do we bother investing in them?

Politicians don't tend to criticise the size of the public sector. They carry huge numbers of votes...

Just because other places (ie the UK) have also mushroomed their own public sector, and our numbers per capita may be better than theirs, doesn't mean that either we or they have got it right. We blindly follow the UK in far too many areas without any specific consideration of whether there was any need to do so.

I don't think that services should be cut until the opportunities to trim any fat from the system have been fully explored. Surely that should be done first?

Carlos and Masetorq

I agree 100%.

Its also fair to say that the States' track record on major projects and tenders on just about everything generally tends to be shambolic. No accountability for getting it wrong.

Spartacus

GM

I believe the mushrooming you speak of both here and elsewhere is merely a consequence of progress within western civilisation. I'm in favour of that.

Guernsey is still not as up to date as it should be (AFR scandal?) and as you know we are obliged to comply with EU human rights directives etc which I'm also in favour of.

As I mentioned earlier Guernsey is a mini country therefore our ratio should be higher than bigger countries like the UK and maybe the reason our ratio is on a par is because we don't keep up with legislation etc as we should (eg. mental health law, education law discrimination laws etc)

IT enhancements can be utilised to improve service delivery and tighten efficiency but we are not yet at the stage where we can replace people with robots!

You say the fat needs to be trimmed but politicians and civil servants say they have done this as much as they can as part of the FTP.

Maybe they should have a review to get an independent expert opinion on staff numbers but what if they say we are lean, would you then be satisfied?

GM

Spartacus

Some interesting points there and some fair ones.

Re it being a "consequence of progress", I guess it depends on how you define "progress". If tens of millions is being spent on computer systems which fail (Health under Roffey and now at the Hub), then I don't call it "progress". The States' overall track record in designing and implementing new computer systems is far from impressive. Is anybody being challenged about that and carrying the can?

The whole point surely is that well-designed computer systems are actually designed to automate administrative tasks so that much more volume can be handled with fewer staff. I'm not sure that we are seeing much "progress" here.

A truly independent assessment would be useful. Civil servants will be "turkeys not voting for Xmas", and politicians don't want to lose votes from large numbers of civil servants, hence nothing much happens.

If the public sector cannot be reduced by good computer systems, then maybe we should be outsourcing public sector administration to the south of England with lower salary costs. In that way, services to the public needn't necessarily be cut, yet lots of annual savings could be made?

Spartacus

GM

In this instance I would loosely define "progress" as better protection for us all against the ills of mankind, and in particular those members of our community who are most vulnerable.

I am not an IT expert and must admit I have not seen any evidence of IT failure in the states of Guernsey just numerous IT problems. Maybe this is the nature of technology rather than the fault of SOG. Again you could get an independent expert to give his view but maybe all they would say is that no system is perfect.

I'm not sure whether you could actually measure how much manpower has been reduced due to IT systems. Maybe the mushrooming has been mitigated, maybe not, regardless of this it is imperative that our systems are bang up to date.

I would not be in favour of outsourcing jobs to outside of Guernsey because although such a policy could indeed save on cost, it would perhaps be detrimental to our economy in other ways. We currently need more not fewer working age residents.

I personally believe that most of our politicians have more integrity than to ignore problems for the sake of securing the votes of civil servants. If not we really are in trouble!

MattT

Er Sparty,

Numerous IT problems IS indicative of IT failure.

Either the systems purchased are not fit for purpose or the IT staff are not of the calibre required to maintain the IT infrastructure.

As you say, maybe it is the nature of the technology. If so (likely), those responsible for purchasing the system in the first place have failed.

You cannot say there are numerous problems and then say there has been no failures.

les pets

Another stupid way to save money. Get the 2,6 million back. Toughen up on the dole bludgers. Cut their benefits and loads of cash for our kids . Whats more important!!!

Jack

Les pets

Get the 2.6m back, that would be welcome but it is not an annually recurring saving so it would not help in the longer term?

les pets

jack I know it isn't a recurring sum but would be enough to run pools for 26 years.

GM

Surely the Child Allowance to parents, regardless of their financial needs, should be scrapped or at least means tested before stupid proposals like this are made?

It will likely be a false economy to keep opening and closing school pools, and so what was the purpose of installing them in the first place? The rationale for having school swimming pools has surely not changed.

Guern

.ets face it the simple answer is close St.Andrews School, st. sampaons primary, Vale primary, and eh oh we have the saving, sell the sites off and education have money in the pocket job done!

Dave

Why not just stop the states pension?

Job done!

Ex_Beaucamp_Uni

When I was at the old beaucamp we used to have our swimming lessons at Beausie, and that only happened in the winter term, once we hit spring we started the outdoor sports, so only having swimming pools open for some of the time does not seem that bad. I have heard that the new Beaucamp has a pool but it has not been filled and most likely never will, so why build it in the first place, surely there would have been cost savings!

BUT on the other hand, my other half likes to go swimming at Beausie but gets cheesed off that the public sessions are only at certain times and even when the pool is open, he can only use half the pool because some of it is roped off. So he would be happy to pay to use another pool or perhaps some of the clubs using beausie could use other pools and there would be a happy medium.

Doggy Paddler

Living on an island surrounded by some of the most ferocious currents in the world, swimming should be as compulsory a subject at schools as maths and english, not to mention the health benefits.

We all know that financial belts have to be tightened,but why not choose a "nice to have" to hit rather than swimming?

Are free music lessons, free instruments and a free schools orchestra really more essential especially at primary school age than teaching children how to swim?

Canary

Dear Guern,

The land St Andrews school is built on belongs to the parish in perpetuity

and it is believed that most of the school was built by the parish in 1888,

it is of course still standing,one is led to believe that the States have little

claim over it.

Andy

Thats a shame but why cant we do away with public sector pensions and really save some cash ?

Donkeyhere

My children and I lived in Australia and they automatically have a week a year dedicated to children improving their swimming - just pure swimming lessons all week. When we moved there, my children were far behind the Aussies in their standard of swimming. To remove even more time that they can spend improving their swimming which, could save their lives, seems a very short sighted idea, but there again that sums the states up.

Parent and swim helper

The NC is that children can swim 25m when they leave Junior school. This is fine for someone who lives in the centre of England. However, for someone who lives on a small island surrounded by sea with strong currents and some of the largest tides in the world this is not good enough. For school pools to be closed the 40 weeks of the year and then expect children to remember how to swim and learn in 12 weeks will not happen. It was amazing how many children had forgotten how to swim and lost confidence after having a week of for half-term, but 40 weeks?!

It is not just the schools that use the pools but other organisations as well, what will happen to them? Where will children learn to swim? Guernsey swimming club use Capelles, swimcraft use Capelles, and Beau Sejour swim school is practically full already.

Island Wide Voting

Can you forget how to swim? I thought it was like riding a bike .. once you have learned it always stays with you

Mind you,having practically lived down the beach in my youth there was never such a thing as having a few days off swimming

Spartacus

I agree. Beau sejour swim school always seems to have a waiting list and they seem commercially successful. Classes once or twice a week make an enormous difference to the confidence and ability of children.

As well as addressing the safety aspect there is also the health and fitness benefits to consider and maximising use of the school pools would be an opportunity to integrate Dr Bridgeman's message that health equity should be at the centre of all policies, but instead the only thing that seems to count at the moment is saving a few pounds in the short term.

Those who can afford the swim school fees will not be affected by these school pool closures but those who can't will be disadvantaged.

Maybe it would be better if education could form a partnership with the swim school to provide services to all school children, partially subsidised. I gather quite a few users of Beau sejour get irritated if they can't swim when they want to due to swimming clubs.

Mrs T

Swimming is the one sport that has the ability to save your life. It is a life skill and something you retain for the rest of your life. It is a common misconception for people to think that a child only needs a couple of lessons each year before the summer and will learn everything that is necessary in that time. Children should swim year-round until they can swim well. Surely this is why the island invested in fantastic, year round swimming facilities and continuing to do so with the Beaucamp School pool?

My boys go to SwimCraft purely because they are taught on technique. If you close the pool at Haute Capelles for six months, the swim school will no longer be able to run its business and 250 children who attend this will suffer.

I am strongly against what has been proposed and I just hope that our comments will be taken on board and considered. Can't we come up with a solution without causing an even bigger problem that could potentially have devastating outcomes?

Why should the lives of our children be compromised for the sake of £100k and cause SwimCraft to go out of business?