Prices for swimming and using the gym are to go up in a number of Wiltshire’s sports centres as the council puts its leisure services on more of a business footing.

Jonathan Seed, Wiltshire Council cabinet member for leisure, said it was vital for the council to invest money in new gym equipment so it can compete with private fitness centres.

He said: “We have to run the leisure centres as a business. All the time I am cabinet member for leisure I am determined to keep all of our leisure centres open and to improve them.

"We have to take a business approach to this.”

He denied that putting up the price of swimming would go against the council’s policy to encourage children to learn to swim.

He said: “It won’t do this because we have free swimming for children in the holidays and they learn to swim at school.

"We are never going to make any money out of swimming pools because they cost so much to build and maintain.”

He did not think parents who want to take their children swimming at the weekend would mind paying an increase in some centres to pay for gym equipment in others.

He said prices were to go up in 12 per cent of leisure centres, go down in 12 per cent and stay the same in 76 per cent.

But he accepted the centres where the costs would go up would be far more than in those where it went down.

Coun Seed said: “Wiltshire Council has been successful in retaining a leisure service for local residents, unlike many other local authorities; and we have largely held leisure fees and charges at the same rate since 2009.

"However, in the current challenging financial climate we want to continue to invest and improve these centres. By reviewing the fees and charges we will be able to do this and renew gym fitness equipment.”

The council is to spend £1.6 million on new gym fitness equipment with centres linked to new campuses benefitting first.

From April 1, fees for using the council’s nine leisure centres will be the same for similar levels of facilities such as swimming, squash, sports halls and gyms.