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Swim School debacle leaves ESC red-faced

Guernsey Press Comment | Published:

SOMETHING, somewhere went hideously wrong.

On Monday, parents were being told, albeit somewhat obliquely, that a States recruitment freeze meant that the Beau Sejour Swim School was limited on staffing so lessons would be cut and not all swimmers would have a place.

This was rightly met with fury and a petition was quickly raised.

Lessons were being axed left, right and centre, including all Saturday morning classes.

There was a pledge to work hard behind the scenes to rebuild the service, but also a rather misguided reference to the #GuernseyTogether spirit.

The States then moved into damage limitation mode, rushing out a statement at lunchtime about the Education, Sport & Culture Committee being aware of what was happening only within the last ‘24 hours’.

The president stressed that there was no funding cut to the Swim School, which makes a tidy profit as well as providing a vital service, or Beau Sejour. An emergency meeting was called.

So why were the staff so convinced they were not allowed to recruit to offer a full service again?

Why, when it is so self-evident that a public service cut would create a serious backlash, were politicians blindsided by the announcement?

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Communication lines had clearly broken down.

It left a committee touting a new £1m.-plus sports strategy for the next decade red-faced, looking hypercritical, and people questioning its priorities.

Minds quickly turn to the £100,000 a year it wants to support the Guernesiais language and wondering just what its thinking is.

If the States cannot afford to fund the swim school, with all the obvious benefits from the active lifestyles and safety it promotes, but then dips into the reserves for nice-to-haves in the time of a crisis there needs to be a serious rethink.

That this situation was mishandled is obvious, but it comes in the wake of a few other States wobbles in this period where we have exited from lockdown.

There has been a lot of understanding, acknowledgement of unprecedented times, but that can only stretch so far.

Nick Mann

By Nick Mann
author

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