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Brussels city councillors lose free swimming perk

08:47 07/02/2023

Brussels city councillors have lost one of their perks - they will no longer have free access to the city's municipal swimming pools.

Pool fees for residents have risen sharply in recent years, and given the increase, members of the opposition party have called free access for councillors an "outdated privilege".

The City of Brussels has three pools: the central swimming pool in the Pentagon, in Laeken and in Neder-Over-Heembeek.

The increase in fees was discussed at the last municipal council, with municipal councillor Bruno Bauwens (PVDA/PTB) pointing out that “it’s easy for the council of aldermen to raise swimming pool fees while they themselves can swim for free”.

Bauwens put forth a motion to remove the privilege. “Their salary is more than enough to afford them a €200 season pass,” Bauwens said.

“Aldermen and municipal councillors don’t need this privilege of free swimming to do their jobs properly. Since the residents, employees and staff of the city of Brussels pay for access to the swimming pool, we believe that the members of the college should fulfil the same obligations as the rest of the population.”

Alderman for sport Benoît Hellings (Ecolo) agreed and in consultation with the board of directors of the non-profit association that manages the Brussels swimming pools, the regulations – which date back to 1984 – were amended.

“For those who go swimming regularly, prices will rise from €200 to €770 a year,” Bauwens said.

“I think people have forgotten that public swimming pools have a social and sporting purpose and that it is essential to keep sport accessible. Given the rising cost of living everywhere, we therefore ask that the price be kept fair.”

He is therefore also suggesting a mechanism to limit the rise of season passes so that it is proportional to individual tickets, which have gone up by about 15%.

“If the city were to implement the same increase, season ticket prices would rise to €230 a year. This seems to us a reasonable and socially fair proposal,” Bauwens said.

Hellings said a price increase was necessary to ensure the future of Brussels' swimming pools.

“Our pools did not close last winter, unlike many other pools in the area,” Hellings said.

“With an entrance fee of €3.20, the city's swimming pools are still among the cheapest in the region, after those in Saint-Josse-ten-Noode.”

Written by Helen Lyons