Edinburgh City Council will publish its physical activity and sport strategy for 2019 to 2023 later this year following a four-week public consultation which closed last month, receiving 409 responses. Officers told culture and communities committee members that additional charges will be introduced for using facilities amid financial pressures – but admitted that poverty was the biggest barrier to residents accessing sports facilities.
The news comes after Edinburgh Leisure announced that charges for its facilities will increase from April.
Conservative Cllr Phil Doggart quizzed officials about any plans to extend charges for sports halls.
He said: “One of the barriers to participation is club fees. Given that is one of the biggest barriers, would it be foolhardy of the council to consider increasing charges for the use of facilities for the use of sports clubs?
“Given the constraints that sports clubs are under in that the money comes from their members, that’s only going to increase the barrier to participation.
“If the council were to consider an ongoing series of increased charges, are we just creating a problem that no matter what we introduce as a strategy, we will never overcome?”
David Bruce, the council’s senior education manager, admitted it must “find new ways of doing things”.
He said: “The reality is that we have agreed to increase some charges and introduce into the charging scheme, some charges for organisations that we believe should be asked to pay them – particularly commercial providers of services for people.
“We are trying very hard to look at the impact of the vast majority of school sports facility users and where we are putting prices up, for the vast majority, it’s by a very, very small amount of money. Reaction we have from our engagement with people is that it’s manageable and acceptable because we are coping with a lot of financial pressures.”
He added: “We are not trying to introduce a scheme of charges that are going to drive people away from the use of our school sports facilities. We want as many people to use them as possible – but we need to balance that with the costs associated of them being used.
“We will still have concessionary charges, we will still have youth rate charges, we will still have very reasonable charges – but we are going to introduce charges for some people where they will be asked to pay a bit more.”
The council is also having more detailed discussions with universities and independent schools as to whether more access to facilities for the public can be agreed.
Mr Bruce added: “Some of the best sports facilities in this city are not owned by the council, they are not managed by the council – they are managed and owned by other people.”