Leisure costs due to rise

COUNCIL chiefs are reviewing a raft of fees and service charges in a bid to boost income.

Hartlepool Borough Council – which needs to save £15m over the next three years as a result of national budget cuts, with £6.7m having to be cut from the 2012-13 budget – is reviewing the costs of more than 700 separate fees and charges.

Councillor Cath Hill, the authority’s culture, leisure and tourism portfolio holder, is expected to rubber-stamp a host of price hikes during a meeting next Tuesday.

The charges centre around sports and recreation facilities, including a three per cent increase on admission to swimming sessions, taking the cost of a single session from £3.30 to £3.40 or from £1.50 to £1.55 for the over-60s.

Also being introduced is “blanket” pricing which will see ActiveCard holders, who pay a yearly fee to enjoy discounts, lose some of these discounted benefits, including having to pay for use of equipment and lockers.

There are also plans to increase the cost of Junior ActiveCard membership from £2.25 to £3.50.

However, council chiefs say the increase is “more realistic given the substantial reductions available on ActiveCard pricing”.

Hire costs for council-run venues, including the Town Hall Theatre and the Borough Hall, are also undergoing a restructuring exercise.

There will now be one standard hire charge, replacing the previous standard and commercial charges, with a 25 per cent discount for not-for-profit groups.

Pricing will be by the hour, with a four-hour minimum.

But function room hire at Hartlepool Maritime Experience will stay the same “to reflect difficult trading times”.

Meanwhile, adult entry to Hartlepool Maritime Experience is being lowered from £4 to £3.50, bringing it in line with the concessionary rate and “to recognise difficult financial times and to encourage maximisation of resident participation”.

The report says the price review “has resulted in increases which in part are above inflation and some that are in new areas”.

But the document adds: “It is important to reflect upon the fact that these charges will still ensure that Hartlepool rates remain very competitive when compared to regional and sub-regional comparators and help to maintain investment and income levels to continue to provide good cultural and sporting facilities.”