LCQ10: Facilities and operation of public swimming pools

     Following is a question by the Hon Leung Yiu-chung and a written reply by the Secretary for Home Affairs, Mr Lau Kong-wah, in the Legislative Council today (November 22):
     Regarding the facilities and operation of public swimming pools, will the Government inform this Council:

(1)  as I have learnt that the four public swimming pools in Kwai Ching District are inadequate to meet the demands of the residents in the district and, among them, only Tsing Yi Southwest Swimming Pool, which was commissioned in July this year, is provided with a heated pool, whether the authorities have considered carrying out renovation and improvement works (e.g. building new heated pools) at the other three public swimming pools in the district (including Kwai Shing Swimming Pool, the facilities of which are dilapidated); if so, of the details and timetables; if not, the reasons for that; and
(2) given that cases of temporary closure of public swimming pools due to insufficient lifeguards on duty have occurred from time to time in recent years, whether the authorities have devised long-term solutions (including reviewing the grade structure of lifeguards to recognise their professional status, improving their remuneration packages, increasing their promotion opportunities, etc.) to ensure that there will be sufficient lifeguards on duty in public swimming pools; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?


     The Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) manages 44 public swimming pools, of which 26 provide heated swimming facilities to allow people to enjoy swimming throughout the year. My reply to the two parts of question is as follows:

(1)  Currently, there are four public swimming pool complexes in Kwai Tsing District, including Kwai Shing Swimming Pool, North Kwai Chung Jockey Club Swimming Pool, Tsing Yi Swimming Pool and Tsing Yi Southwest Swimming Pool. According to the Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines (HKPSG), there should be one swimming pool complex per 287,000 population. While Kwai Tsing District has a population of 510,900 at present, the provision of four public swimming pool complexes meets the requirement recommended in the HKPSG.
     Tsing Yi Southwest Swimming Pool, which was opened in July this year, provides heated swimming facilities to residents in Kwai Tsing District. The other three public swimming pools in Kwai Tsing District are outdoor swimming pools. The Audit Commission pointed out in the Report No. 42 of the Director of Audit published in 2004 that the provision of outdoor heated pools is environmentally unfriendly because their heat dissipation is faster than that of indoor heated pools. This has resulted in higher electricity/fuel cost to heat up the water of outdoor pools. The Government has no plan to convert the outdoor swimming pools in Kwai Tsing District into heated swimming pools at present and will continue to listen to the views of different stakeholders.

(2) The safety of swimmers has always been LCSD's prime concern when considering the manpower requirements of lifeguards. LCSD reviews the manpower of lifeguards for pools and beaches annually, taking into account the actual operational needs, and deploys manpower under the established mechanism for the operational and service needs. As at August 1, 2017, there were 2,009 lifeguards, including 1,204 civil service lifeguards and 65 ex-council contract lifeguards employed on a long-term regular basis.  The remaining 740 were non-civil service contract seasonal lifeguards employed on a seasonal basis to augment the manpower of lifeguards during the swimming season.
     The total number of civil service lifeguards has increased by 35 per cent from 893 in 2011 to 1,204 in 2017. There is no difficulty in the recruitment of civil service lifeguards and their resignation rate has all along been lower than the average resignation rate of the entire civil service, indicating that there is no retention difficulty. Given that there is no proven and persistent difficulty in recruiting and retaining civil service lifeguards and there have been no fundamental changes to the job nature, job complexity and level of responsibilities of civil service lifeguards, civil service lifeguards therefore do not meet the criteria for conducting grade structure review.  Regarding opportunities in career development, there are posts of various grades in LCSD. 35 lifeguards (i.e. Artisans (Beach/Swimming Pool)/ Artisans (Lifeguard at Water Sports Centre)) were appointed as senior lifeguards (i.e. Senior Artisans (Beach/Swimming Pool)) through in-service recruitment between 2015 and August 2017. In addition, 26 senior lifeguards or lifeguards were appointed as Amenities Assistant III through in-service appointment in the past five years. 
     Since seasonal lifeguards are employed on a short-term basis, their mobility is naturally higher than that of civil service lifeguards.  In addition to stepping up publicity and recruitment efforts, LCSD has also adjusted upwards the remuneration in terms of salaries and gratuities for seasonal lifeguards as appropriate, streamlined recruitment procedures and organised more walk-in recruitments as well as recruitment talks with schools and organisations, etc. to attract more eligible applicants to apply for the post. LCSD will also continue to recruit eligible retired civil service lifeguards as seasonal lifeguards, and implement a number of measures, including the launch of different training programmes and trainee schemes integrating training, internship and recruitment so as to enhance the overall manpower supply of lifeguards.

Ends/Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Issued at HKT 11:50