Fears for kids’ dance classes as council raises charges

Phelan School of Dance class pictured at the Leith Community Centre, Kirkgate Leith.
Phelan School of Dance class pictured at the Leith Community Centre, Kirkgate Leith.
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DANCE classes and other groups operating in council-owned community centres could be forced to close after a massive hike in the cost of using the premises at weekends.

A shake-up of janitorial cover for the centres has left groups across the city with bigger bills for their regular lets.

And now there are warnings that users could effectively be priced out of existence.

A janitorial review resulted in a reduction in council-funded cover at many community centres.

Having janitors outside the designated core hours now means overtime costs of £20.42 per hour are charged to the centre.

The council says it is up to community centre management committees to decide whether to pass on the charge to users. But many have little alternative.

Mary Phelan, who runs the Phelan School of Dance, said she faced an extra £80 bill for her weekly Saturday morning session at Leith Community Centre.

And she said she did not know how she was going to meet the increased cost.

She said: “We’re offering local children classes at affordable prices.

“We have 150 kids coming on a Saturday aged from two to 17. We don’t want to put that price onto the kids that are coming in. This is a deprived area and a lot of these kids would not be able to afford other dance schools.”

Ms Phelan said she had no doubt some groups across the city would find themselves unable to continue as a result of the new charges.

“It will put prices up and some groups and classes will close. The children are going to miss out and they will be the ones who can’t afford to go elsewhere. It’s just not fair.”

And she added: “The other people who use the centre on a Saturday are birthday parties - they will get charged for the hire of a janitor and that will make it too much for people to have their party there.”

Portobello/Craigmillar Green councillor Mary Campbell said concerns about the increased cost of janitor cover at community centres at weekends was a widespread worry.

She said she had even heard of sessions involving council-employed youth workers now facing additional overheads from janitor costs, which she said seemed “perverse.”

“As I understand it the change has come about as part of the facilities management review, which is part of a bigger package of budget savings.

“Based on feedback so far, it is vital that the council talks to centre users and management committees one to one about how costs can be dealt with.

“The last thing I want to see is groups losing space while community centres sit empty.”

Finance convener Alasdair Rankin said: “Community centres are allocated facilities technicians, who are there primarily to cover for our lifelong learning activities as well as to carry out general maintenance and other duties.

“The community centre management committees are responsible for their own lets and keep the income generated from them. Where they request facilities cover outwith the normal working hours of the staff allocated to them then a charge is incurred.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com