ELITE swimmers in Torfaen are to lose their coach as part of council budget cuts.

Members of Torfaen County swimming club have been told by the council that their coach Gareth McNarry will be made redundant in July as part of the proposed £9 million budget cuts, which will result in 80 job losses at the authority.

Almost 300 people have already signed a petition to save the squad who say they can't carry on without their coach.

Team swimmer Sophie Rosser, 16, from Pontypool was awarded the Great Britain Open Water Talent ID in August last year.

She said: "The decision to make the coach redundant effectively means an end to the performance squad within the county programme.

"The decision doesn't just affect those currently within the squad, it affects everyone within the borough.

"There will never again be an outlet for those children within this borough who show true potential, who are prepared to sacrifice 20 hours a week training, who seek to become one of the best."

The elite squad is made up of 20 swimmers aged 14-19 who are the cream of the crop from the four swimming clubs in Torfaen.

The squad was set up three years ago to provide a higher level of training and a performance outlet for swimmers who were outgrowing their local clubs.

In 2010 the team saw 10 members qualify for the British Nationals, one British Championship qualifier and a commonwealth youth squad hopeful.

Matthew Fairless, 15, from Henllys in Cwmbran started swimming with the Torfaen Puffins at the age of two and qualified to swim with the Torfaen county squad in November 2009.

Matthew has now qualified for the regional squad and is ranked 7th in the UK for Long Course 200 Butterfly stroke.

He said: "Anyone who competes at the level we do in Torfaen county dedicates so much time to the sport that there is little time to do anything else.

"We choose to do this because we are proud of what we achieve and are so hopeful of what we can achieve in the future.

"If the coach is removed at this critical point in my swimming career, how can I ever have a chance to even make the Welsh Youth team?"

Coach of Torfaen swim squad, one of the teams that feeds in to the county squad, Ian Rosser said: "We're looking at ways to raise the funds to keep the coach in place but I don't see how it's going to happen.

The most important thing for us now is to keep the 20 hours of pool time for that squad across the three pools in Torfaen.

"At the moment that's up in the air, they haven't said yes or no."

A Torfaen council spokesman said: "We will remove the post of swimming coach in July as part of measures the council is taking to save £9.2m from the 2011/2012 budget.

"There is no proposal at this time to reduce the hours allocated to local swimming clubs.

"This decision has been made with full consultation with the staff affected."