Edinburgh Council U-turns over £35-an-hour sports hall charge

Proposals to charge £35 an hour to use school sports halls have been axed after it was revealed that some clubs would fold under the plans.

Sunday, 9th December 2018, 6:19 pm
Updated Sunday, 9th December 2018, 6:25 pm
Primary school pupils take part in basketball tournament. Pic: Michael Gillen

Research by Edinburgh City Council officials found that if the £35 per hour non-core charge was rolled out, clubs would be hit with extra costs of £84,250 over 40 weeks and £214,600 for clubs using PPP school facilities. The findings also revealed that “junior clubs that would bear the largest share of these costs”.

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Calls for delay on Edinburgh sports hall charge

In June, following a public outcry, the city council agreed to “pause” rolling out the charges after a motion by Green Cllr Alex Staniforth was agreed.

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chair of education, Ian Perry

Education convener Cllr Ian Perry will table a motion at tomorrow’s education, children and families committee, demanding that officers draw up a strategy for sports clubs to “access council facilities without additional charges being imposed” on them.

Cllr Perry said: “We paused the £35 increase in order to consult with the local clubs who were affected. The majority of local clubs would experience difficulty with that level of charge – some of them said they would even have to close if they had to put that charge on.

“What we will agree is to not levy the charge and ask the officials to look at different ways in which we can make more efficient use of our schools and our pitches.

“We are looking for efficiencies in terms of shared use and we want to do that on a voluntary basis so work will be undertaken with the clubs to see if we can make much more efficient use of the resources that we use.”

Without the £35 hourly charge to use council sports facilities, the authority faces budget pressures of around £1m.

Colin McMillan, chairman of Clubsport Edinburgh, which represents 400 clubs across the Capital, said news of the u-turn was a “bitter-sweet feeling”.

He added: ”It’s a worry that we have had to do this but I think the councillors have realised that clubs have got a reasonable part to play in Edinburgh’s physical activity strategy.

“We are delighted but pretty concerned that we have had to do this to fight against the idea of clubs being closed.”

Cllr Staniforth added: “Overall, clubs would face an extra £300,000 in costs, with more than half of that falling on junior clubs. Some junior clubs would face price hikes of well over 200 per cent.

“If the council were to press ahead with the charges the money saved will be nothing compared to what would be lost in sports provision for young people.”

“Faced with such hikes clubs would either be forced to go elsewhere or shrink in size, even to the point of folding, meaning that new income targets would not be met anyway.

“These are very damning findings which the council simply cannot ignore.”

Conservative education spokesperson, Cllr Callum Laidlaw said: “While the council is under financial pressure and particularly with regard to our school estate, it is clear that for many clubs charging £35 an hour is just not sustainable.”

Adam Szymoszowskyj from basketballscotland, added: “Prior to the £35 per hour non-core hours charge postponement, there was a real chance that sport clubs in Edinburgh would collapse.

“Should the decision be taken that the non-core hours be scrapped, sport clubs can continue to make the impact that they do without fear that they may go out of business.”

Mr Szymoszskyj warned: “Long term, we need to ensure that clubs are not faced with getting priced out of their facilities again.”