Council backs leisure centre cost increases
Bruce Sinclair Local Democracy Reporter
The cost of using leisure centres and similar council-run facilities in one county is to rise by more than 10 per cent to help the cash-strapped council balance its budget.
Members of Pembrokeshire County Council’s Cabinet, meeting on February 12 backed a recommendation to increase fees for leisure services by inflation plus four per cent, a rise of 10.7 per cent in total.
A report for Cabinet members, outlined by Cabinet Member for Residents’ Services Cllr Rhys Sinnett, said that, historically, Pembrokeshire fees and charges have been lower than neighbouring authorities, but that gap has narrowed over the past two years.
Members heard it is “considered preferable to increase fees and charges rather than reduce service provision, such as reductions to opening hours or facility closures”.
The proposal to increase charges followed a recent public consultation on the 2024/25 county council budget, at a time when the council is facing a shortfall of £31.9m, with Cabinet members recommending a council tax increase of more than 16 per cent during the February 12 meeting.
During this financial year, the service has seen significant growth in both usage and income, with an extra 140,000 visits and a nine per cent growth in membership numbers.
“Whilst setting leisure fees and charges, it is essential to consider the cost of provision alongside the marketplace and sector position,” the report said.
“In particular, avoiding setting fees that we believe the market will not bear, as this risks diminishing returns. With this in mind, the proposed fees have been benchmarked against other local authority providers in the region.”
The proposal also maintains the Passport to Leisure scheme, with charges frozen for those who are eligible.
Three options were considered by Cabinet members: a 6.7 per cent inflation rate increase, which would raise £281,000, but would only cover inflationary pressures; an inflation plus four per cent rate, as an average across services, which would raise an additional £198,000; and lastly an inflation plus five per cent rate which would raise an additional £248,000.
The last option was not recommended as it could led to a drop in users, generating no more income than the plus-four per cent option.
The inflation plus four per cent option was moved by Cllr Sinnett, supported by Cllr Jon Harvey, and was unanimously backed by Cabinet members.
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