Future changes to sports and physical activity fees agreed

Councillors have backed future changes to the amounts users will pay to take part in sports and physical activities at Aberdeenshire Council facilities in an effort to sustain services in the future.

To mitigate the impact price increases might have for users, they will be phased in using a capping system.

From April 1 2017, all price rises will be capped at no more than an additional 20% of current prices. From 2018 the cap will rise to 50% of current prices, increasing to 80% of current prices in 2019 with full implementation of the pricing policy expected by 2020.

Proposals agreed by the council’s Communities Committee today (Thurs, Feb 23) mean that, by 2020, the council will recover 60% of the costs required to provide these services.

Currently the council only recoups around 45% of the costs.

The changes will bring Aberdeenshire’s prices, which have historically been low, closer in line with the cost of sports and physical activities in other areas of Scotland over the next three years.

The changes were agreed at the same time as an announcement that the council will be investing in developing the range of programmes on offer at its facilities and working with sports clubs to discuss how best to use the new Sports Development budget.

As part of the price changes, from April 1 2017, the discount for those on low incomes taking part in sports and physical activities will increase from 50% to 60%.

A new 30% discount will also be introduced for all young people aged 18 and under as well as those under 25 in full-time education.

Looked After Children will continue to be able to access facilities for free as well as carers swimming with the person they are assisting.

The new structure will also change concession rates for over 60s, whose discount will gradually be reduced before being removed by 2020.

For standard prices, by 2020 the cost of an adult swim will rise from £3.80 to £5, a fitness class charge will rise from £5.10 to £6 and a junior swim lesson will rise from £4.30 to £5.50.

The price of a monthly Active Aberdeenshire membership, which gives one adult access to any of the council’s gyms and swimming pools, will rise from £24.10 to £31 by 2020.

The hire of rooms, pitches and facilities like tennis courts will also increase in some circumstances although if the members of a group using them qualify for concession or junior prices, they will be eligible for a reduced rate.

Chair of the Communities Committee, Cllr Anne Allan, said: “In the last few years there has been significant investment by the council in new facilities offering sports and physical activities in Aberdeenshire.

“Residents and visitors to Fraserburgh, Ellon, Alford, Banff and Macduff can all now enjoy modern, state-of-the-art facilities on their doorsteps, with further developments expected in Banchory, Inverurie and Peterhead in coming years.

“But at current rates the council is only recovering 45% of the cost required to provide sports and physical activities, which is not sustainable in the long-term.

“The new pricing structure will allow us to continue this programme of investment and sustain services in the future by increasing fees for those able to afford it while at the same time continuing to offer a range of discounts for young people and those on low incomes.”

Vice-chair of the committee, Cllr Raymond Christie, said: “Our new prices still represent value for money and compare favourably with other areas in Scotland but we recognise that price increases could cause pressures for users if put in place immediately which is why we will be phasing them in over a number of years.

“Our new pay monthly options are now much more attractive and better value for money rather than, for example, an individual, one-off gym visit.

“We hope that, in turn, these will encourage people to use our sports facilities more frequently – making Aberdeenshire an even healthier and happier place in which to live, work and study.”

Notes:

In February 2016, Aberdeenshire councillors agreed a council-wide charging policy to be phased in over three years from April 2017.

Education & Children’s Services was identified as being required to implement the new policy in its first year.

Key implications of the new policy include a presumption of full cost recovery for a service although this can be reduced based on a range of circumstances including the need to subsidise services to attain policy objectives.

Full cost recovery rates of key sports and physical activity include:

• Active Aberdeenshire adult membership - £51.11

• Adult swim - £8

• Fitness class - £10.67

• Junior swimming lesson - £9.11

During the council’s previous public engagement on its budget, 66% of respondents agreed that the charging structure for sports and physical activities should be revisited. Respondents said they would prefer to see higher prices if it meant the council could better sustain services.