FAMILIES facing financial strain have claimed they are being short-changed by Renfrewshire Leisure’s pre-booking system.

Despite the recent removal of most coronavirus restrictions, customers attending a swimming session still must reserve a time slot in advance of their arrival.

Families currently have to pay £10 to book a 45 minute slot, and if they wish to swim for longer, they are required to pay another £10 to book the next time slot.

A concerned Johnstone resident, who asked not to be identified, said that Renfrewshire Leisure was one of only a few pool operators still implementing a time-capped booking system.

He told The Gazette: “Even through the pandemic you could turn up at Inverclyde and other council pools without a slot and stay as long as you wanted.

“I totally get that the booking system allows them to take details for contact tracing, but keeping the 45 minute slots and then charging for a second slot at the same price is just a back-handed tactic to gain more money.

“I know lots of families will be struggling these days and I can see lots of places using the ‘because of Covid’ excuse to keep certain things in place for a financial gain.”

Councillor John Hood, who represents Johnstone South and Elderslie, is urging those in charge to go to greater lengths to rectify the situation.

He said: “As far as I’m concerned, families need facilities like this and it should be cheap as possible.

“You want to encourage families to use the facility and not discourage them with extra costs.

“If they’re going to stagger how many people are coming in, it needs to be at a decent and affordable price.

“At the moment, there’s a lot of people out there suffering and can’t afford to use these facilities that they really need.”

A Renfrewshire Leisure spokesman said: “We hope that everyone appreciates that the advance booking system for swimming is a temporary measure in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which we regularly review. It is an efficient and effective way in which we can support track and trace, if required.

“The need to keep our sessions to their 45 minute blocks is also a result of the pandemic, allowing us to safely manage numbers in our pools in each time group, while meeting customer needs for access. 

“It is reflective of the strong demand we have had for swimming since reopening in April. We have accommodated in the region of 4,100 family swimming sessions in that time, which has been great to see.

“From Monday, August 16, capacity for our swimming sessions at the Lagoon Leisure Centre and On-X will increase, which we hope will open opportunities for more people to enjoy our pools.

“We are also working with our booking system provider to explore how sessions can be extended to represent even better value for money, building on our work to offer a swimming service which is already competitively priced and provides opportunities for families to enjoy time together and improve their wellbeing. Indeed, our admission prices for families have not increased for three years.”