HEADTEACHERS have complained they are still being charged for swimming lessons cancelled due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

Schools are only open to a small number of pupils, the children of key workers, and leisure centres are closed due to lockdown restrictions.

Richard Holden, MP for North-West Durham, said headteachers have also complained about paying for transport costs for journeys that are not being made.

He has now written to Durham County Council arguing such charges to schools should be reviewed urgently.

Mr Holden said: “It is absolutely unacceptable that schools are being charged for swimming lessons that don’t currently exist and that, on top of this, they have to pay for transport to and from these non-existent lessons.

“I have written to the council as a matter of urgency to request that they look into the policy of charging schools for non-existent services during a global pandemic.

“I look forward to hearing back to them and will continue to work with my constituents and local education providers on this crucial issue.”

Richard Holden argues schools should not have to pay for swimming lessons during lockdown

Richard Holden argues schools should not have to pay for swimming lessons during lockdown

North-West Durham MP Richard Holden

Amy Harhoff, Durham County Council’s corporate director for regeneration, economy and growth, confirmed receipt of Mr Holden’s letter and said the authority will be responding to the points raised.

She said: “In relation to schools having to continue to pay for swimming lessons and transport: this is in line with recent Department for Education guidance to schools and academies where contracts have been affected by closures during the coronavirus pandemic.

“This guidance encourages relief measures including payments to be put in place in order to protect suppliers and supply chains. As funding for statutory lessons such as swimming is given to schools as part of their core budgets, no school will be financially worse off as a result of complying with this guidance.”

Consett Swimming Pool

Consett Swimming Pool

Consett Swimming Pool

Mr Holden is also raising concerns about the continued closure of Consett Swimming Pool.

Last week Durham County Council said the facility, closed last spring for repairs, could remain shut for another year.

Investigations of the site revealed that there are badly cracked tiles, leaks, water loss, poorly fitted and maintained electrical cabling and problems with the flooring in the gym and squash courts.

The problems are associated with work done by the original contractor, Carillion, which no longer exists.

Mr Holden said: “I am extremely concerned over Durham County Council’s announcement that Consett Swimming Pool is to be closed for another year.

“This has an enormous impact on the community as people don’t have access to a pool or lessons, and lack of access to a pool can have a very serious impact on those with disabilities.”

Ms Harhoff said significant defects were present when the council took over management of Consett Leisure Centre in 2018.

She said: “The work to address the extensive defects caused by the contractor will be carried out as quickly as possible, led by the council, and we have put in place arrangements to minimise impacts on people wanting to use the pool while it is closed, including providing alternative options at our other centres.”