Sporty OAPs face stiffer fees to use leisure centres

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OLDER people face higher prices at city sports and leisure centres to help bridge a £2 million funding gap.

Major cuts will also be made in the budgets for Kirkliston Leisure Centre and the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena at Ratho.

The board of Edinburgh Leisure, the not-for-profit trust that runs the Capital’s council-owned sports facilities, last night agreed to seek savings of £1 million through a series of internal “efficiencies”, which are expected to include job cuts.

The other £1m will be found from higher charges and reductions in services.

The board agreed to “less generous” concessions, with the older adult monthly membership going up from £20 to £26.70 per month.

The age at which seniors qualify for their discount will rise from 60 to 65 – though just for new members.

The new standard 40 per cent discount for older people – and 50 per cent for under-18s and disabled people – represents a simplification of the current scheme, which has a wide variation of discounts from 26 to 70 per cent.

The trust claims this compares favourably with the typical 30 per cent discount elsewhere in Scotland.

The general health and fitness membership price for unlimited access to pools, gyms and fitness classes will be frozen at £44.50. Cheap family swims and free swimming for under-fives and over-75s will remain.

The subsidy for the climbing arena at Ratho will be reduced, saving £200,000.

The board also agreed to look at reduced opening hours at Kirkliston Leisure Centre, saving £100,000.

A source said the measures agreed last night did not meet the full funding gap and the board would look at the situation again in January, but said the closure of venues would be “a last resort”.

Edinburgh Leisure has seen the number of visits to sporting and leisure venues increase by 28 per cent since it was set up in 2000, but its £2m funding gap has been caused by the end of the gym boom, the recession, and reductions in funding from the council.

A recent Audit Scotland report showed Edinburgh invests around £30 per head per year in public leisure provision, well below the £100 per head invested by Glasgow and the Scottish average of £65.

Edinburgh’s Phyllis Herriot, assistant secretary of the Scottish Pensioners Forum, said old people would feel they were being “picked on again”.

She said: “It’s sad this is going to affect older people who have been paying all their lives. Swimming and leisure helps to keep them healthy – we should be encouraging it, not dissuading them.”

Labour group leader Andrew Burns said the cuts were a direct result of the reduction in Edinburgh Leisure’s budget, which all the opposition parties had voted against.