Sports halls rental hike ‘to be postponed’ following outcry

A planned rates hike for the rental of school sports hall has been postponed. Picture: Gary Hutchison
A planned rates hike for the rental of school sports hall has been postponed. Picture: Gary Hutchison
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Plans to massively increase the cost of hiring school sports halls across Edinburgh have been put on hold following an outcry from groups who use the facilities.

Protesters said youngsters from the poorest areas of the Capital were likely to lose out if the proposal were pushed forward.

The plans will now be put on hold while council officers explore methods to help clubs set to be hit by the extra costs.

Edinburgh Leisure, which is owned by the council, took over the letting of school halls, pitches and pools last year and charges for all adult clubs are being increased.

The council had proposed an extra £35 per hour fee to hire out the council’s 11 public-private partnership schools outside of core hours.

Green Cllr Alex Staniforth put forward a motion to delay the decision while a full consultation takes place with the clubs that use the facilities.

He said: “This motion is to not intended to criticise Edinburgh Leisure. This issue was caused by this council.

“We need to preserve our sports facilities in this city, not diminish them. Now is the chance to get a proper resolution that works for everybody.”

He added: “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.”

The Conservatives put forward an alternative motion that called for £60,000 from the Council Priorities Fund to cover the costs of the consultation and the impact on sports clubs and other affected organisations until the consultation is completed.

Cllr Graham Hutchison, who put forward the Conservative amendment, said the council “had a duty to promote health and well-being through sport”.

Cllr Ian Perry, education convener, said there was a willingness to find a long-term solution to the issue.

He said: “We will do something about this. We will put a timescale on it – it’s going to be done. We need to settle this.”

Earlier, councillors heard from ClubSport Edinburgh, who called for the proposed extra charges to be shelved.

ClubSport Edinburgh chairman, Colin McMillan, said: “Sport is a very important part of society. We want to see a clearer picture for clubs.”

Lynne Beattie from Volleyball Scotland, said that school sports facilities were “at the very heart of the community”.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Scott Arthur said: “The review of the proposed increase in charges for sports halls is very welcome as I feel it is my duty to protect the most vulnerable from the impact of the cuts our capital is facing.

“After speaking to a local netball coach, it became clear to me that the charge hike would hamper her ability to keep girls from deprived backgrounds ­active and to develop their team-working skills. ”

Tory health spokesman Miles Briggs MSP said: “This is welcome news that the hikes have been postponed to January, but the council needs to seriously reconsider these charge hikes, they are not seeing the bigger picture.

“I will continue to put pressure on Edinburgh City Council to reverse this decision that will make exercise and playing team sport no longer affordable for some in Edinburgh.”