Leisure prices: 'It's an insult to claim the public wanted the move'

NO MATTER which way Edinburgh Leisure tries to disguise the issue, the cancellation of off-peak rates for the use of facilities at the city's sports centres is further bad news for many users.

And to claim that the move has come about because the public requested a system that was easier to understand is actually rather insulting.

It is common knowledge that the company, which manages these facilities on behalf of the council, has been struggling to keep its head above water in recent times, largely due to growing overheads.

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Despite receiving more than 8 million a year in public subsidies there have been three above-inflation price hikes in the last two years. In addition, four creches are being closed to cut costs.

On top of that the council itself raised charges on out-of-hours sports facilities in schools by a whopping 25 per cent.

All of this appears to be having an impact on user patterns. While swimming remains popular and the numbers of child users continues to grow the facilities are generally poorly used, with the average adult using them only three times a year.

Is this low take-up rate due to a disinterest in exercise or because many people on low incomes are being priced out of the market?

If the latter should prove to be the case that is worrying, as Edinburgh Leisure's mission statement is effectively to make the city's sports facilities affordable for all. Of late they have had a funny way of going about it.

The payment system was perfectly transparent as it stood before. Use the facilities between certain, less popular hours and the cost was cheaper. Use them at peak times and pay more. Buy a leisure card and you were entitled to a discount. What could be simpler?

Do right by Ciara

THE conduct of the city council over its refusal to send 13-year-old Ciara McGearey to the Royal Blind School beggars belief.

In deciding to ignore a independent tribunal ruling that the institution offers the best option for her educational needs it is clear that financial considerations have been put before the best interests of the child.

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But what is more galling is that having gone through a process to determine what is best for her the council, which too often enjoys the privilege of being jury and judge on such matters, is unwilling to accept an outcome it does not like.

It should learn to abide by the rules it often plays by.