'Paid-for queue jumping' at council leisure centre sparks concern

Operator defends new two-tier booking system in Buckingham

Thursday, 8th April 2021, 10:20 am
Swan Pool and Leisure Centre

With gyms set to reopen on Monday, Buckingham's Swan Pool & Leisure Centre has come under fire for bringing in a two-tier booking system for classes.

While all members are able to book up to seven days in advance, members who pay an extra £9.99 per month can now upgrade to 14 day priority booking.

The fear is that those unable to afford the extra outlay will find their chosen classes full up by the time they are able to book, so only those who can afford the upgrade can access classes.

The venue is owned by Buckinghamshire Council and leased to leisure operator Everyone Active.

Gym member Tony Allen is among those who have complained.

He told the Advertiser: "I am not looking for them to waive the £10 charge per month for just me. I want this for all members and not a second-class system for the majority.

"I have always championed exercise for mental health and believe these steps by Everyone Active may compromise this."

On Facebook, one person commented: "With this new feature it’ll mean those who can pay extra will dominate classes."

Another said: "It was already difficult pre-lockdown to get into classes and with this new option it will likely make it impossible unless you are willing to pay an extra £120 a year, which many after a year of hardship will not be able to do... to sneak this in after such a year to me seems irresponsible when health issues have been seen to be a major fact in cases of Covid during the last year."

Another added: "Installing a two-tier system is not helpful - in my view, it is paid-for queue jumping. The good old British principle of first come first served should continue to apply. Everyone needs to be active - for both physical and mental health."

Chris Williams, contract manager for Everyone Active, said: “We are looking forward to launching our group exercise classes again in May. In order to allow more booking flexibility and based on customer demand, we have introduced a new booking system which allows customers to book classes 14 days in advance.

"This is a £9.99 add-on option for any member. This system is already in place at some of our other centres in the South East and has been a huge success.

“For those who choose not to utilise the add-on, they still have access to the standard seven-day advance booking system for all exercise classes. Virtual classes have also been introduced at Swan Pool and Leisure Centre to allow for more classes, spaces and availability.

“There are added benefits to all of our membership tiers and all customers receive access to our Everyone on Demand package which gives them over 2,500 classes online for no extra cost. We hope members will continue to enjoy our online classes until they return in centre next month.”