VOTE: Organisers slam plans to charge for Worthing charity swim

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ORGANISERS of Worthing’s annual charity swimarathon have expressed outrage and disgust after they were informed they would have to pay to hire the pool.

The Rowland Gibson Charity Swim, formerly known as the Worthing Swimarathon, has run at the Aquarena for 17 years and has raised more than £63,000 for numerous mayors’ charities.

However, current mayor Ann Barlow has now been told next year’s charity swim will be charged the full £600 hire fee if the event is held at the council-owned Aquarena.

The news comes exactly a year after the death of former charity swim organiser and Worthing resident Rowland Gibson – a man who lived for the charity swim.

This week, Ann said if the fee was not cancelled she would find an alternative, free venue or cancel it altogether.

She said: “If there is no quid pro quo agreement then we will explore David Lloyd leisure centre and if neither venue is available then the charity swim will be cancelled. I am not going to let the children raise the first £600 for the council. That is not going to happen. That charge is not going to be passed onto children.”

Organiser Trudi Starling said she was “absolutely disgusted” by the council’s decision – something she blames Worthing Council leader Paul Yallop for making.

“I think the whole thing is totally outrageous. This is the only one of the mayor’s charity fund-raisers aimed specifically for children, with the adults coming second.

“I agree with Ann completely as I do not think we should even consider paying for it. I think Paul Yallop should mind his own business and step back down from this situation.”

In previous years, there was a fee levied on the swimarathon if the event carried on for a second day, but organisers say the main day was always free to hire.

Trudi said previous mayors and councillors have contacted her to express their “disgust” over the decision.

She added: “I do not think what Rowland would say would be repeatable. I think Paul is completely out of order and Ann is completely justified in her outrage.”

This week, Rowland’s brother, Bruce Gibson, said the entire family was “utterly shocked” by the news.

He said: “It’s perverse in the extreme for the council to attempt to charge for an event at the Aquarena which has been at the centre of civic charitable work in Worthing over the last 17 years.

“I hope members of the council who have supported Rowland’s work so strongly in the past will be able to act to stop this from happening.”

The mayor said at the moment it would prove to be cheaper to pay for the children to enter the pool than pay the £600.

“That £600 is the full commercial rate – £100 an hour to hire that pool,” Ann said. “There is no charity discount there.”

Ann only learned about the council’s decision to charge the fee at a full council meeting earlier this month.

Each year, the mayor tours many of the schools in the area promoting the charity swim and the swimming pool. Ann said she could not understand why the Aquarena would not be satisfied with a quid pro quo basis due to all the free publicity the event brings about.

Council spokesman, Wendy Knight, said: “As part of the council’s drive to reduce its budget spends, all mayors are now required to ensure that any costs incurred with any fund-raising are contained within the expenses of the actual event.”

What do you think? Do you think the council should charge for pool hire for a charitable event? Cast your vote in the panel to the right of the screen.