Big leisure price hikes approved

A RANGE of inflation-busting price hikes for sport, leisure and tourism activities have been approved.

The increases, some of which are significantly above the rate of inflation, cover fees and charges for Hartlepool Borough Council’s theatres, sports centres and country parks.

Officers have reviewed charges as part of the annual budget process and tourism chiefs say the move will bring them in line with neighbouring authorities.

The cost of swimming at the Mill House Leisure Centre will rise from £2.80 to £3.30 and from £1.45 to £1.65 for Active card holders. The rise includes the changing room locker cost.

The cost of schools hiring the council’s team trailer, which is packed with sports equipment for youngsters to use, has gone up from £48.15 to £52.50.

New charges have been brought in for instructor-led courses at Summerhill country park, off Catcote Road, to reflect its popularity and the cost of hiring the main hall has rocketed from £5.25 to £16 per hour to bring it in line with other community buildings.

Officers stress that the main hall can be divided into two small rooms, available for hire at £4.20 per hour each.

Fees to use the Town Hall and Borough Hall theatres have increased by up to 20 per cent while staff from Tees Archaeology will now charge a fee of £25 for talks.

There is a small increase in library fines but the cost of online reservation in libraries has been slashed by 37 per cent.

Independent councillor Hilary Thompson approved the rises at her culture, leisure and tourism portfolio.

Coun Thompson said: “When I first looked at it all, I was quite taken aback by some of the high percentage increases.

“But when you look at it, it is pretty obvious when you compare with other areas that Hartlepool has been quite generous in its low pricing.

“The revised prices still compare well with the region and allow for concessions. Hopefully, this will keep us competitive while bringing in much needed revenue.”

The price rises come into affect from April 1.

John Mennear, the council’s assistant director of community services, warned that if more income is not generated then it would reduce the quality of the services.

Mr Mennear, who said the new fees allow for a range of concessions, added: “There are some significant charge increases but compared to other areas, Hartlepool’s fees and charges are usually average at the most and very rarely are they higher than the average.”

Coun Thompson added: “I reluctantly accept them all, but I can see that these are needed at the moment to make the services competitive.”

l TO see the full list of fees and charges log on to www.hartlepoolmail.co.uk and click the link on the story.