More lifeguards are coming to Brighton and Hove beaches after councillors extended the service to cover three more beaches during the school summer holidays.
The move comes after Labour councillors pushed against budget cuts made earlier this year, reducing lifeguards cover on Brighton and Hove beaches from 10 to seven.
Members of the Culture, Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Economic Development Committee backed reversing the £100,000 cut to lifeguards on Thursday (15 June) and diverting £60,000 from diseased tree removal to the service.
However, it will still cost Brighton and Hove City Council an additional £93,000.
Senior council officer Mark Fisher told councillors the council has “no statutory duty” to provide the service, but it is “highly valued” by residents and tourists.
Earlier this year, more than 3,300 people signed a petition to keep lifeguards on all 10 city beaches.
Conservative councillor Samer Bagaeen asked about the impact on the council budget after it was confirmed the council ended the last financial year with a £3 million overspend.
He wanted to know what would be cut and where the money was coming from.
Mr Fisher said it is a “pressure” in the service, but the council will “look to generate additional income” and make savings through its seafront services and activities.
Speaking outside the meeting, Councillor Bagaeen said: “I could not vote against the lifeguard’s report to safeguard the lives of sea swimmers. This was particularly important given the recent events on the beach in Bournemouth.
“I acknowledge the budget is tight, and the administration needs to find savings that do not impact critical service delivery.”
Green councillor Raphael Hill was concerned whether enough people were recruited to the service as they said there is a national shortage of 6,200 lifeguards as pools were closed and training halted during covid.
Councillor Hill backed Councillor Bagaeen’s concerns about the lack of a detailed savings plan to the committee.
They asked about issues with recruitment as the council advertised for 25 lifeguards, which will increase to 40 following the committee’s decision.
Mr Fisher confirmed 100 people applied for the posts, but not all met the criteria to fill the roles.
Labour councillor Jilly Stevens highlighted the need for lifeguards and beach safety after teenagers were seen climbing on the Palace Pier and jumping off groynes into the sea during recent hot weather.
She said: “It’s a great reassurance for me as a grandmother of a 15-year-old, who wasn’t hanging off the pier at the weekend and wasn’t jumping off a groyne, but there were people who were.
“This is such a serious issue at the moment, safeguarding our youngsters and those who visit us.”
From May half term, lifeguards are stationed on the busiest beaches on both sides of the Palace Pier, West Street and at the King Alfred.
Lifeguards are posted at the King Alfred Beach, Hove Lawns, West Pier and Bandstand and Saltdean during the school summer holidays.
The extra lifeguards will ensure all the busiest beaches have lifeguard cover, then look to install lifeguard stations at Dukes Mound/Black Rock, West Hove/Lagoon and Rottingdean.
Councillor Bagaeen asked for the decision to go to the next full council meeting on Thursday 20 July.