Postcode lottery on gym fees

Edinburgh Leisure faces a funding gap of up to �1m in the coming year
Edinburgh Leisure faces a funding gap of up to �1m in the coming year
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Public gyms and swimming pools in Edinburgh’s prosperous suburbs would cost more than those in poorer areas, under proposals being considered by the cash-strapped organisation that runs council-owned sports facilities.

Edinburgh Leisure faces a funding gap of more than £1 million next year and bosses are looking at a range of measures to fill the gap.

One option being considered is “differential pricing”, where different charging systems could be used at some centres, in order to encourage more people to use the facilities.

It means that membership fees for sports facilities in well-heeled areas could cost more than in more deprived areas.

One source said: “All aspects of service will be looked at. Closures are not on the agenda at the moment but they will be.”

At present, an Edinburgh Leisure membership entitles access to all its sports facilities.

But discounted pricing for facilities in poorer areas, such as the Jack Kane Centre in Craigmillar, is being considered in order to encourage more people to use them.

A fitness membership currently costs £44.50 a month, while a swim membership is £27 a month, although prices are reviewed annually.

Councillor Iain Whyte, culture and leisure spokesman for the Conservative group on the council, said: “There is an obvious concern that people who pay council tax should get some kind of benefit but, if the council puts in a subsidy to encourage participation, it should be targeted where you get the best health benefit.

“I hope this is done sensibly and that it won’t just be about cheaper prices because it is in a deprived area, but also looking at demand and pricing lower in areas where there is lower demand.”

Edinburgh Leisure chairman Charles Winstanley said: “The board of Edinburgh Leisure is fully aware of the financial challenges ahead and is reviewing all options with a view to bridging any funding gap.”

Edinburgh Leisure is facing a third consecutive funding cut from the city council for the 2012/13 financial year. It has seen its budget reduced by four per cent per year and the total cut is likely to be around £1m over the three years. As well as the cuts, it has suffered from the economic downturn and competition from budget gyms.

Following a board meeting, Edinburgh Leisure chief executive John Comiskey said: “A number of proposals were discussed in response to meeting reductions in our levels of funding from the City of Edinburgh Council but we have not reached a stage to announce any final decisions.

“Addressing our financial challenges remains a priority for the board and one which we will continue to address going forward.”

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