TWO volunteer-led swimming clubs in the district - Derwent Valley and Ryedale - have cleared another hurdle in their fight to continue delivering swimming lessons.

At a meeting of Ryedale District Council's policy and resources committee last night, the clubs received unanimous support from councillors.

The clubs' cause was helped by a huge turn out from their members and supporters: they crowded into the chamber, with some even having to remain outside due to health and safety risks.

The threat to the clubs goes back to autumn last year, when Everyone Active, which has the 10-year, multi-million pound contract to run the district's pools, wrote to them saying that it wished to be the sole provider of lessons in the district.

A review by the authority's overview and scrutiny committee rejected this, and recommended that the clubs be allowed to continue to deliver lessons: a recommendation that committee members endorsed last night.

The move by Everyone Active had prompted discussions about outsourcing, competition and choice. The company had originally said that it has a policy of being the sole deliverer of swimming lessons and that competition from the clubs has led to a loss of income.

Helen Robinson, chair of Derwent Valley club based in Norton, delivered a plea to members at the start of the meeting. She said that Everyone Active's proposals would mean the club, which was formed 56 years ago, would be forced to close.

"We are a group of very dedicated volunteers," she said. "If Everyone Active are able to take over our lessons it's likely that both clubs will fold.

"The question we pose today is the cost to the community if we close our lessons."

She added that the voluntary nature of the clubs meant they could keep their lessons low-cost - essential for some families who otherwise could not afford to teach their children the life-saving skill of swimming - and also that they have the passion to teach youngsters to competition level.

Cllr Di Keal said: "The swimming clubs have an excellent track record of providing highly skilled teachers who have taught generations of children to swim - the clubs should be supported to continue to carry on their good work, as there is no reason to change a system that works so well."

Cllr John Clark said that "there appeared to be nothing in the contract to say that Everyone Active would have a monopoly" on delivering lessons.

The meeting also saw supportive statements from members across the political spectrum, including Cllrs Paul Andrews, Lindsay Burr, John Raper, Val Arnold, Bob Gardiner and Joy Andrews.

Cllr Keane Duncan said: "Everyone Active's proposal means there will be just one provider of swimming lessons in Ryedale, ripping away competition and removing parental choice.

"In effect, it would hand Everyone Active a monopoly over all swimming lessons in Ryedale.

"Everyone Active's plans have succeeded elsewhere in the country. But they have not yet encountered the Ryedale community, nor the determination of the clubs and generations of swimmers to see them survive.

"We need to send a strong and loud message to Everyone Active - that this council wants to see the clubs continue to provide swimming lessons, but not only that, continue to thrive for decades to come."

Chair of the policy and resources committee Cllr Luke Ives, said that Everyone Active is doing a good job of managing the pools and welcomed its investment in new gyms, but said that the council "absolutely have got to continue to support the clubs."

He added: "We operate a partnership with Everyone Active but that means we can be honest with each other."

The recommendation was approved by the committee with nine votes for and one abstention.

It still needs to be approved by full council.

David Goodfellow, chair of Ryedale Swimming Club which was founded in 1973 and is based at Ryedale Pool in Pickering, said afterwards: "I'm delighted the committee value the voluntary work put in over many years; a voluntary effort that has taught countless children to swim and taken children to local, regional and national competitions - an effort that has been rewarded with a lifelong love of sport."

Everyone Active said it was not in a position to issue a statement at this time.