Sports clubs face a rise in fees with cabinet decision

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SPORTS clubs and players will have to dig deeper into their pockets to continue their hobby after cabinet members over-ruled a council decision on future fees.

Labour and Liberal Democrat members approved a 2012-13 budget for North Tyneside Council which would see the cost of sport, leisure and allotments in the borough increase by 3.5 per cent with no further increase for using sports pitches and bowling greens.

But at a meeting on Monday, cabinet members agreed to dismiss that and set in place their original increases – five per cent on indoor sport and leisure activities at council facilities, ten per cent on casual gym and exercise classes, five per cent on facilities at the Rising Sun Country Park, ten per cent increase on allotment charges, and new charges for using sports pitches and bowling greens, which would see bowlers paying £1.54 per week compared to the current rate of 42p.

The changes aim to help the council bring in £193,529 in the financial year, while reducing the subsidies for sports pitches and bowling greens.

Coun Glynis Barrie, cabinet member for leisure, culture and tourism, said: “There are significant activities which continue to be free. We still continue to provide for residents.”

Paul Gowans, head of cultural and customer services, said they would write to bowling clubs to outline the position over their future fees.

He added: “It’s still part of the plan to close down some of the bowling clubs with few members.

“Once we have determination over the fees for bowling greens we will re-engage with the working group and come to a conclusion on what these bowling greens will be that we close and they will be offered ground share on one of the 17 greens across the borough.”

Initial cabinet proposals to increase the fees for sports and bowling clubs over a four-year period will be examined over the next few months.

Plans to create a new joint service centre in North Shields could still go ahead despite being deferred by opposition councillors.

Cabinet members have agreed for investigations to take place into refurbishing North Shields Central Library to create a one-stop-shop for council services.

The proposals had been deferred by opposition members as they said they could not justify the £2.7m spend with no contracts in place.

But the plans could still go ahead after cabinet was told the budget was legally not set in stone and could be changed.

Officers have now been tasked with finding alternative sources for the funding rather than rely on council borrowing.

Mayor Linda Arkley is keen to turn the former library into the North Shields Customer Centre and bring all the services under one roof.

“I think this is one of the biggest mistakes some councillors have made,” she told the meeting. “North Shields will be the only town centre which will have no new or refurbished joint service centre.

“The building is past its best. Our intention was to reinvigorate it because it was out of date.

“It really has been a disappointing move from other parties who have stopped this in its tracks.”

The library has moved into temporary accommodation in the former business centre in Howard Street, but as a result only 8,000 of the 25,000 books are available.

Coun Barrie said the move had seen a 50 per cent drop in footfall around the town centre.

A report to cabinet said there would be increased costs to the council in continuing to use the temporary facilities for the library and council services while the 12-month deferral would have a potential negative impact on the regeneration of North Shields town centre.

Members of the council’s overview and scrutiny committee have also had their say on the budget drawn up by the opposition parties, with a report being presented to cabinet setting out their views.

But legal advice given at the cabinet meeting said the budget was “non-prescriptive” meaning the only thing set in stone was the level of council tax.

Mrs Arkley is to hold meetings with the leaders and deputy leaders of all three parties to see if there is any common.

n Councillors have five working days from the cabinet meeting’s minutes being published to call in the decision and ask for it to be reviewed. If no one does, then the fees and charges would increase.