Stoke-on-Trent leisure centres ramp up gym fees
LEISURE centre users face a hike in the cost of swimming and fitness classes as a cash-strapped council attempts to claw back £137,000.
Charges for sport and leisure services have increased by as much as five per cent as Stoke-on-Trent City Council looks to save £21.1 million in 2013/14, The Sentinel can reveal.
Prices for adult swim sessions at Dimensions have increased by 5.1 per cent from £5.90 to £6.20, and from £4.10 to £4.30 at Fenton Manor Sports Complex.
The latter is 70p more than sessions at Newcastle Borough Council-run Kidsgrove Sports Centre, and 90p more than Brough Park, in Leek, run by Staffordshire Moorlands District Council.
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Admission to the fitness suite at the Wallace Sport and Education Centre, in Abbey Hulton, has seen a 33.3 per cent rise from £3 to £4.
But the facility hit the hardest – with a 42.9 per cent increase – is the Stoke-on-Trent Gymnastics Centre, in Burslem, which now sees users pay £3 per 30 minutes – 90p more than the previous price of £2.10. Michelle Adams, the council's strategic manager for sport and leisure, admitted some of the hikes were above the rate of inflation.
She said: "The proposal considered a number of factors such as the need to generate income and reduce operating subsidies.
"Each product has been considered on its own merits in light of historical market trends.
"In some cases the review led to no price increase, in others an inflationary increase, and for some products it was identified that scope existed for above inflation increases.
"Overall when price increases are averaged out, this leaves an average increase across all of the facilities and services of between three and five per cent."
Revised fees and charges came into place on January 1, while education swimming service charges will commence from September 1. Pitch hire charges will go up from the start of the 2013/14 football season in August.
Leisure centre users have hit out at the rise in fees and say more people are shunning the facilities in favour of cheaper alternatives – such as Jubilee 2 in Newcastle, where a monthly membership for swim, gym and all fitness classes is just £26.
Twenty-five-year-old Aaron Pritchard, of Blurton, said: "I know that a lot of people who used to go to the gym or for a swim don't go anymore because of the cost. More people are choosing to work out at home because it is free."
Andy Chetwyn, aged 24, of Trentham, said: "There are places where you can pay £10 a month to use the gym and take part in classes at a much lower rate.
"The council are trying to pull money from areas that just can't keep up with the private sector."
Helen Reeves, aged 24, who lives in Burslem, added: "It's getting ridiculous.
"It is cheaper to by a fitness DVD or to go for a run outside."
Other charges include a rise for the squash courts at Northwood Stadium from £6 to £6.30 and a 3.5 per cent rise for badminton court hire at New Horizons Sports and Leisure Centre, in Chell.