CONTROVERSIAL increases in the cost of hiring school sports halls are to be delayed after an outcry from clubs who warned youngsters from poorer areas were set to lose out.
Council leader Adam McVey said the rises - due to be introduced on August 1 - would be put off until January so officials could explore ways of helping clubs who say passing on the cost hike would mean children giving up on football, basketball, volleyball, gymnastics or other activities.
The council wants to reduce the subsidy it currently provides to all clubs using school premises.
And while some clubs say members simply cannot afford the higher charges, Cllr McVey said there were plenty who could.
He said: “There are lots of clubs where doctors, lawyers and highly paid professionals are playing sports a number of times a week and right now the council is subsidising these folk.
“It costs us about £250,000 a year and we need to look at how equitable that is.”
The increases come after Edinburgh Leisure took over responsibility for lets at schools across the city. Charges for all adult clubs are going up and although the basic charge for junior clubs is frozen, an extra £35 per hour charge is due to be introduced for all hires outside core hours at the 11 PPP schools.
Yesterday the Evening News revealed how West Edinburgh Warriors basketball club, with 30 per cent of its members from the city’s poorest communities,will see the cost of its three hours on a Tuesday at Tynecastle High School soar from £61.80 to £166.80.
The delay was being announced at today’s full council meeting in response to a Green motion calling for a postponement.
Cllr McVey insisted the increases would not be scrapped, but said the council would look at how it could help struggling clubs.
He said: “This is a three month delay in implementation to make sure we get it right. The question is not whether sports clubs are going to pay a bit more - that has been agreed and will be implemented.
“But we need to explore the extent to which some sports clubs might not be able to afford it and see what mitigation measures we could find to support clubs so everyone can sustain the same level of access to sport.”
He said delaying the increases until January - costing the council around £63,000 - would allow clubs to go ahead with block booking sessions to the end of the year with certainty about what they were going to be paying.
Green councillor Alex Staniforth welcomed the administration’s move.
He said: “Over the last few weeks it has become clear that there had been no assessment of the effect of a massive hike in charges on some of the most successful and vibrant sports clubs, especially those which pride themselves in opening up sport for people on lower incomes. A pause should be a time to look properly at how any negative effects can be dealt with.”