SHOCKED swimmers have launched a campaign against council cost-cutting which has "banned" them from their local pool during the week.

Blackburn with Darwen Council plans to cut public access to Shadsworth swimming pool on Mondays to Fridays from April 1 amid claims the leisure centre is losing £200,000 a year.

The pool will only be used for swimming lessons between 9am and 12 noon and 1pm and 6pm in school term time.

The council has said the cuts, made to save an estimated £40,000 a year, will mean resources at Shadsworth can be used in the best interests of all swimmers.

But regular users have said they are "absolutely outraged" by the decision, saying that deprived areas such as Shadsworth need to have their community facilities strengthened rather than eroded. And an opposition councillor said a major question mark now hangs over the future of the whole leisure centre as a lack of investment has made equipment there increasingly poor.

The council introduced the new programme in a bid to meet budget saving targets and also to reduce the council's high waiting list for swimming lessons.

It said there will be an increased number of classes for youngsters to learn or improve their swimming skills before summer.

But swimmers in Shadsworth, which is the 82nd most deprived ward out of 8,414 wards in the country, want more investment not cuts.

And Age Concern have expressed concerns over the shortening of public hours for the pool which around 100 people use on an average per day, many of them elderly.

Coun Derek Hardman, spokesman for leisure sport and culture for the council's Conservative group, said that Shadsworth Leisure Centre is losing around £200,000 a year and Waves Water Fun Centre in Nab Lane, Blackburn, was also losing money.

"Shadsworth desperately needs investment or it will struggle to continue," he said.

Peter Stancliffe, a senior citizen who uses the pool three times a week, said: "I don't think they should be allowed to do things like that.

"Swimming is important because it adds to our quality of lifestyle."

Julie Skorupka, who works as children's service manager for Barnado's in Shadsworth, said: "I was absolutely outraged when I heard.

"Swimming is still one of the only affordable activities for parents to do with their children and that's being taken away from them, it's a disgrace.

"I know for a fact that we are not encouraged to go during the day because the schools are there and the public are only given a small part of the pool."

Carol MacNair, 53, of Arran Avenue, Shadsworth, said: "It's just pathetic. I have angina so its good for me and I take my granddaughter there."

Roland Henry, 63, of Seven Houses, Knuzden, said: "I have a heart condition, swimming is the only exercise I get. I have been coming here for 20 years."

Vicky Shepherd, Age Concern services development manager in Blackburn, said: "We are concerned about the effects on the elderly people who use the swimming pool during the day."

Steve Rigby, director of community, leisure and cultural services for the council, said: "This new programme will mean that resources at Shadsworth will be used in the best interest of all swimmers and will mean badly needed swimming lessons can be introduced.

"This will hopefully prevent accidents involving youngsters playing in and around water especially during in the summer."