City losing $3.5 million a year on public pools

Wollongong City Council is losing more than $3.5 million a year keeping its network of public pools open, figures obtained by the Mercury reveal.

The figures show each and every swimmer is being subsidised by up to $10.85 per pool visit, courtesy of ratepayers.

Taking into account revenue and expenditure for both free and paid pools, the council suffered a net loss of $3,503,105 last financial year.

MORE: Council downplays call to demolish tidal pools

This ranged from a net loss of $285,939 at Helensburgh pool to $522,104 at Port Kembla pool.

The figures are contained in a package of internal council documents supplied to parties interested in submitting a tender to develop a 20-year planning strategy for the city's nine public pools. The strategy will be used to help Wollongong city councillors decide future funding allocations.

A project brief accompanying the tender documents says the successful party must: assess the council's current pools against industry standards and trends; identify opportunities for increased patronage; and review expenditure on pools.

The council's recreation services manager Mark Bond yesterday said the consultants would be asked to come up with ways to boost the number of pool visitors without increasing council funding. He denied pools would close or current services or programs would be cut as part of the review.

"This isn't a cost-cutting exercise, it's not a service review, and we won't be seeking direction from the consultants on introducing fees to existing services, closing pools or adjusting opening hours," Mr Bond said. "Our council, at this point in time, has indicated it is not prepared to introduce fees in any of the existing facilities in their current form.

"The consultants will be told these things are off the agenda."

However, Mr Bond did say the consultants would be given room to suggest introducing a fee if it accompanied a recommendation of a major upgrade, such as making certain pools heated.

The review is also expected to consider whether a new pool will be needed to serve the future population growth at West Dapto.

The consultants will be required to deliver a draft plan by April and a final report by June.

WHERE YOUR RATES ARE GOING

How much Wollongong City Council is paying to run public pools per visitor:

Helensburgh $5.71

Thirroul $2.72

Unanderra $2.71

Continental Pool $2.58

Port Kembla $3.35

Berkeley $10.85

Dapto $8.89

Corrimal $4.27

Figures are based on recorded net profit/loss from each pool divided by attendance figures

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