Council criticised for paying Olympic swimmer £5,000 to open new leisure centre

A COUNCIL has come under fire for paying an Olympic gold medallist £5,000 to open a new leisure centre.

Saturday, 29th October 2016, 6:00 am
Updated Monday, 31st October 2016, 9:55 am
Olympic swimmer Adam Peaty at the opening of Holly Hill Leisure Centre

Rio 2016 swimmer Adam Peaty was guest of honour at the opening of the new £9m Holly Hill Leisure Centre in Sarisbury Green.

The 21-year-old athlete was paid the fee by Fareham Borough Council for his appearance, which included unveiling a plaque, giving a speech and providing tips to young swimmers during a session in the pool.

Jason Mudge, from Fareham, submitted a Freedom of Information request into the local authority in order to obtain the figure.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Mr Mudge said: ‘This is, in my view, a scandalous waste of our money.

‘I can only think that executive leader of the council, Sean Woodward, upon learning that the build was already £2m over budget, thought than an extra £5,000 didn’t really matter.

‘If he was really intent on spending this sum then maybe he could have installed the under-floor heating they missed off the build instead, or some showers that work.’

The cost of the centre rose from £7m to £9m due to a rise in inflation and a new road, junction and sports pitches.

Peaty said at the time of the opening that he hoped the facility would prove to be a ‘massive boost’ to the community and produce the next generation of Team GB stars.

Chris Arnold, from Oysell Gardens in Portchester, said: ‘We’re in a time of austerity and supposed to be tightening our belts.

‘Everything seems to be cost, cost, cost at the moment.’

Cllr Woodward said: ‘We have waited many years for a leisure centre to serve residents in the western wards so the opening was a time for everyone to celebrate.

‘Being able to meet Adam Peaty at our opening event was a fantastic experience for everyone.

‘Adam spent half a day, mainly in the pool with the children, giving them tips on their swimming technique.

‘From the delight on the children’s faces at that mass swimming lesson it is clear that they were inspired and will remember his visit for many years to come and that alone makes the whole event worth every single penny.’