A NEW pricing structure has been agreed for a popular outdoor centre.
Carlton Outdoor Education Centre, which is run by Hartlepool Borough Council, is popular with school and also adult groups and officers have now moved to introduce seasonal charges in a bid to boost income and ensure it remains competitive with other centres.
The current charge is £30 per day per head for Hartlepool primary school groups irrespective of the time of year the group is using the outdoor centre.
But independent councillor Cath Hill, portfolio holder for children and community services, has now agreed a new structure for 2013-14 which will see the price rise to £33 during the months of February to March and September to December and £37 between April to August.
During January, the price will be cut to £27.
The current standard charge to all other primary school children is £46.50, which will be slashed to £38 in November to December and February and £30 in January.
It will increase to £47 between the months of March to October.
John Mennear, the council’s assistant director of community services, said: “The alteration of any pricing always carries an element of risk but the proposals have taken into account to what level the market will bear increases and where, having bench-marked with competitors and analysed patterns of use, some reductions are justified.
“As we continue to progress with improving the financial situation at Carlton it is imperative to continue to generate as much income as possible as well as drive down costs.”
Labour councillors Chris Simmons and Carl Richardson also attended the portfolio meeting and the councillors quizzed officers about efforts to increase the number of schools using the facilities.
Mr Mennear said all town primary schools had been contacted and asked what priority they gave outdoor education and despite a limited response schools thought “highly” of the outdoor centre.
Members also raised concerns about parents not being able to afford the increase in price for the summer season and as a result some may miss out on the opportunity.
Mr Mennear said it wasn’t always clear how much of the expense was passed on to parents by the school but added those youngsters that get free school meals were eligible for access to the pupil premium if their school has that policy, which sees the school pay the majority of the cost.
Coun Hill, who described Carlton as a “wonderful experience” for children, approved the new price restructure.
Ahead of the meeting the new pricing structure had already been backed by the Carlton Trustees.
Officers say since 2006 various improvements have been made to site including a new accommodation block, redevelopment of toilet and bathroom facilities and improved night time security.
Senior officers say because of the withdrawl of other local authority partners, a “significant amount” of work has been carried out to reduce costs and boost income.