THE number of people learning to swim through council-run programmes in West Dunbartonshire has dropped by nearly five per cent, according to a new report.

Although the total for the last financial year (2016/17) states 86,894 people took part in learn-to-swim schemes locally, that number is down from the previous year’s (2015/16) five-year high of 91,152 – a 4.7 per cent reduction.

However, the drop is explained in a council report due to go before members of the infrastructure, regeneration and economic development committee, which meet last week.

Factors contributing to the decline outlined in the report include a “gap in provision” caused by the delay in opening the new Clydebank Leisure Centre.

The report goes on to say demand remains “high” and that participation rates in 2017/18 are expected to increase significantly.

The report highlights the annual performance of West Dunbartonshire Leisure Trust for the year to March 31, 2017, and states that the trust’s Swimming Development Team has “substantially increased” the number of swimming lessons available in the learn to swim scheme by introducing the national framework at Clydebank Leisure Centre, the Dumbarton Meadow Centre and Vale of Leven Pool.

However, the report also goes on to admit that participation was down in 2016/17 due to the “gap in provision” between the closure of the Play Drome in Clydebank and opening of the new Clydebank Leisure Centre.

The 32-day delay between the closure of the Play Drome and the opening of the new centre, resulted in the drop.

However, it is “expected” that participation will increase in 2017/18 as a result of the full implementation of the new framework which makes better use of the pool space available and there “continues to be a demand” for more swimming lessons.

The report adds: “WD Leisure is currently working on the creation of an Aquatics Strategy that will provide the direction required to further enhance swimming activity across West Dunbartonshire.”

West Dunbartonshire Leisure Trust is responsible for the strategic and operational management of West Dunbartonshire Council’s sport and leisure facilities, community facilities, sports development, active schools and for event delivery on behalf of the council.