A PLAN to slash admission prices for sports facilities in Hyndburn has sparked a war of words over whose idea it was.
Tory leader Councillor Peter Britcliffe this week pledged £20,000 to the Active People 07 initiative, which from 1 April to 30 September will see children under 16 able to swim for free during school holidays at Great Harwood Baths and Hyndburn Sports Centre.
There will also be free crown green bowling passes, free sports pitches for children, half-price pitch hire for adults and £1,500 split between the borough's three swimming clubs.
The scheme could cost a further £19,000 if continued into 2008.
However, Hyndburn Labour Party is calling the scheme "a victory for socialism" and claimed the idea had been stolen wholesale from its defeated budget proposals which the Observer reported last week.
Councillor Britcliffe said: "This is a wonderful initiative, a jewel in Hyndburn's crown. I'm the first person in the history of the borough asking for reduced prices for everything rather than increasing them.
"As an ex-teacher who realised how swimming lessons have been cut in schools, I'm delighted we will be able to make this provision for young people.
"It shows how far this council has gone in that we are able to respond to the health authority in this way."
At a Cabinet meeting, Councillor Britcliffe denied that the Labour Party had thought of the idea for free swimming first.
Fellow Conservative councillor Brian Roberts, chairman of the community safety partnership, said: "This will help occupy young people and keep them off the streets during the summer holidays. It will be a tremendous boost and there's not a child in Hyndburn who'll be able to say there's nothing to do."
However, Labour councillor Pam Barton said: "I don't know how you can sit there with a straight face. We are delighted you are supporting our policies. It was our leader Councillor Graham Jones' idea and he will be delighted you have taken his views on board."
Following the meeting Councillor Jones said: "This has got our name on it. I'm really proud we have made a difference to the lives of the people of the borough and shown real leadership. This decision is a total victory.
"It represents time for change. When Conservatives are having to take Labour policies on board we know their reign is coming to the end.
"These are collective services paid by the taxpayer for the greater good of the community."
He said the Labour Party now planned to try and take Oswaldtwistle Civic Theatre and Accrington Town Hall back out of private control and reduce prices, which he said were too high and had priced out many Hyndburn residents.
- IN its budget proposals, rejected last week, Labour wanted to spend £20,000 on halving the cost of using adult soccer pitches and making junior pitches free.