Richmond swimming pools are facing claims of being unfriendly while they struggle to attract residents and recruit lifeguards.

Councillors said locals had been refunded after complaining about their experiences and schoolkids were even going to swimming lessons in Hounslow due to the problems.

Richmond Council is facing an overspend of £426,000 in environment and community services for the rest of the financial year as bookings remain low after Covid and the cost of living crisis hits budgets.

This is made up of a £352,000 overspend in the sports and leisure sector as membership is at just under 60per cent of pre-Covid levels and the authority expects numbers will drop further due to cost of living pressures on residents, schools and clubs.

But councillors said the venues should be made “friendlier” to bring customers back, at an environment, sustainability, culture and sports committee on November 1. 

Lib Dem councillor Chris Varley said residents had been refunded by leisure venue Pools on the Park after complaining about their treatment.

Councillor Varley said: “I’ve had anecdotal emails from residents saying they found going to Pools on the Park quite an unfriendly experience.” 

He added: “I brought it up to the service of course and people got monies refunded and stuff but it’s not an isolated thing, I get them periodically from different people.”

He said it should be made “friendlier” for visitors. 

Lib Dem councillor John Coombs added that a Richmond school had tried to go back to using Teddington Pool but found it so hard they now go to Hounslow instead which they found “much more easy and friendlier”.

Councillor Coombs said: “If we want people to come back to using our facilities, the facilities have got to be welcoming and facilitate the bookers because for one of our schools to actually use a Hounslow pool because they found it was easier than using Teddington doesn’t speak very well.” 

Alex Moylan, head of finance for environment and community services, said the predicted overspend overall for the committee is £420,000 – an increase from £276,000 just two months ago – mainly due to concerns about leisure centre bookings.

He said: “We’ve seen organisations such as schools and clubs not take on as much of the block bookings as they have previously done due to budget concerns for schools as well.”

The council has struggled to recruit key staff, including lifeguards, since reopening its sport and leisure centres after Covid.

The authority runs six centres across the borough with just under 2,000 members. It has been training lifeguards for free to tackle the shortage.