Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Brighton Council must extend lifeguard service - or risk tragedy

With our summers getting longer - and more tourists visiting Brighton and Hove then ever before - I could hardly believe it when I heard that the council-provided lifeguard service is scaled down at the end of August.

Whilst July was a bit of a damp squib this year, September had 20% more sunshine than average, and more sunny days in total then July. And it's the month when the sea is warmest!

But the lifeguard service is, as was always the case, scaled down at the end of August. As member of the summer 'seafront staff' told me, people are pretty much left to fend for themselves on sunny days in September.

This is crazy. It's a policy based in the past, when British summers were shorter and tourists in September few and far between.

It risks a human tragedy - and could costs the city's reputation as a seaside resort dear.

I raised the issue at last week's meeting of Brighton and Hove City Council only to be told by Tory cabinet member Cllr David Smith that the summer season had always run until the end of August and that people wishing to swim in September should do so in one of the city's public swimming pools.

(I still haven't worked out how to do this on Firefox, but IE users can see the whole exchange here, by clicking the Index Points tab and then at 01:12:21)

Hardly supporting the free, healthy, leisure activity of sea swimming - or encouraging tourism for that matter. I thought promoting Brighton as a tourist destination was actually David Smith's job!

The council must recognise that our summers are getting longer and more people than ever are choosing to holiday here – especially after the school holidays end.

On sunny September days people were swimming anyway (ignoring the signs telling them not to - pictured), and if a tragic accident occurs when the lifeguards were off duty Brighton’s reputation as a safe seaside resort would suffer untold damage – the price would be paid not just by the family and friends of the victim but by all of us.

So how about it, Cllr Smith - will you extend the lifeguard service into September next year?

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