AN MP and council leader have launched a bid to introduce free leisure services across a borough.

Hyndburn MP Graham Jones and leader of Hyndburn Council Miles Parkinson said the effect the scheme could have on obesity and poor health could be great.

The pair are hoping to convince health bosses to bring in a free leisure scheme similar to the ‘Beez’ card scheme available in Blackburn and Darwen.

They said now was the perfect time to lobby for funding, as primary care trusts hand over responsibility of health services to new bodies in April.

Coun Parkinson said they hope to convince new health authorities to prioritise free leisure as a spending priority.

He said: “Of course as a council we are very concerned with the type of services offered to residents and we hope we can get a spending priority like this on the agenda.

“It will of course have to be carefully reviewed and at time of cuts any spending will need to pay dividends long term.”

Mr Jones: “The Beez Card allows all Blackburn and Darwen residents access to free leisure services, partly paid by both Blackburn with Darwen Council and the PCT.

“I suggested free leisure right across Hyndburn paid for by the NHS but it wasn't taken seriously by Hyndburn and Ribble Valley PCT on cost grounds.

“About 18 months later Blackburn with Darwen implemented the Beez Card as key to reaching low income groups. Following the changes to the NHS and abolition of PCTs, we are urging pressing groups to look closely again at a free leisure card proposal.”

A spokesman for NHS East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Groups said: “The links between exercise and better health are well established and therefore, NHS East Lancashire CCG supports any initiative that will enable people to make healthier choices.

“East Lancashire PCT did consider the Beez scheme, but decided that there was not sufficient evidence the opportunities for free leisure would be taken up by people who could least afford to pay. For this reason, the PCT targeted its funding with the aim of making sure that it reached those in greatest need.”