Children taking part in Birmingham swimming club events will miss a Government offer to provide free pool access to all under-16s.
City council cabinet leisure member Ray Hassall has confirmed that club members must continue to pay because they participate in closed sessions.
The council expects to receive £400,000 from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to provide free classes and lessons for children from 2009. A further £250,000 will cover free pool access for all people aged over 60.
Under-16s in Birmingham already qualify for free swimming at certain times if they buy a council leisure passport, but the new offer will do away with the need to register while also providing lessons at no charge.
Coun Hassall (Lib Dem Parry Barr) has been criticised for his ruling, but said he was only following guidance from the DCMS.
He told the leisure scrutiny committee: “The Government is being quite specific about this. The money can only be used to pay for open sessions, that is sessions that are open to all people. Club sessions are not open to the general public.
“We have to stick to what the Government wants us to do. If I started funding club sessions they could come down on me and take the money away.”
Coun Hassall insisted the initiative would result in thousands of Birmingham children learning to swim who, if they had to pay, would rarely be able to visit a swimming pool.
Under the DCMS rules, the funding must be used to provide “structured sessions” where instructors are on hand to give free lessons to participants.
The council is also planning to offer separate sessions for boys and girls in an attempt to overcome cultural resistance to mixed swimming.
Coun Hassall added: “It is a fact that 54 per cent of children under the age of 11 in this city cannot swim one length of a pool and this is something I want to address.”