Price rises backed

Cath Hill.
Cath Hill.

PLANS to increase a raft of fees and service charges to boost council income have been approved.

Independent councillor Cath Hill rubber-stamped the Hartlepool Borough Council price hikes because of the pressures of the “current climate”.

As a result of national budget cuts, the council needs to save £15m over the next three years, including £6.7m from the 2012-13 budget.

The review included more than 700 separate fees and charges.

Coun Hill, the council’s culture, leisure and tourism portfolio holder, said: “It would be lovely if we didn’t have to have price increases, but that is just not realistic in the present climate.

“We are in the climate where people have to be prepared to pay for the services that they are using as long as it is a reasonable amount of money.

“The council is no longer in a position to subsidise things to a great extent.”

The charges centre around sports and recreation facilities, including a three per cent increase on admission to swimming sessions at Mill House Leisure Centre, 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.

Plans to increase the cost of Junior ActiveCard membership from £2.25 to £3.50 was also approved.

Officers - who said they were confident Hartlepool still had some of the lowest prices for services in the region - said the increase is “more realistic” given the reductions available on ActiveCard pricing.

Hire costs for council-run venues, including the Town Hall Theatre and the Borough Hall, have also undergone a restructuring.

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.

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

Meanwhile, adult entry to Hartlepool Maritime Experience for town residents is being lowered from £4 to £3.50, bringing it in line with the concessionary rate.