Mid Ulster District Council is keeping the process by which its swimming lessons are booked “under review” as it admits demand for the service is “far in excess” of what it can supply.
The issue was raised at a meeting of council’s development committee on Thursday, November 10, by Councillor Niamh Doris who told the chamber a number of parents had contacted her to complain about the process for booking swimming lessons at Dungannon leisure centre.
“There seems to be a new system that has come in. Now I don’t know enough about it myself but I think there is a certain time you are meant to go online to book the lessons,” said Cllr Doris.
“It seems this system has led to a lot of disappointed people. I know prior to Covid you were able to go in and line up and whoever was first got. I am not expecting answers tonight but I think it would be important to look into it as from what I am hearing from parents it is not working at present.”
Council’s assistant director of health, leisure and wellbeing, Kieran Gordon said these frustrations are reflected across council’s three wet sites and assured the chamber officers are keeping the booking process under review.
“We are getting a significant amount of demand for swimming lessons, far in excess of what we can actually provide, particularly at the lower and entry levels,” he said.
“I think that is a mixture of a number of things especially the build up of so many leisure closures last year. Kids that ordinarily would have joined the scheme at that time and exited by now are still waiting to enter.
“We are looking to make the scheme more efficient. There have been many different ways tried and tested over the years but what I can assure the members is that with the online element it is on a first come first serve basis.
“Whilst there is a time the booking slots get released, it does recognise the time people have joined the queue at.”
He continued: “The challenging thing for us in Dungannon specifically is we were only able to make approximately 50 spaces at the beginner level available this month.
“Those spaces were snapped up in a matter of minutes. It is something we are looking at. We are aware of the issues and will keep looking at possible solutions for future use.
“We have toyed with the idea of going back to waiting lists but that is not a long term solution either as that does not manage expectations for parents and customers.
“We are keeping it under review and are linking in with parents who come forward to us in order to be able to move it forward.”