IW Council: Look again at parking and leisure centre charges

Further details of the Isle of Wight Council Conservative Group’s alternative budget proposals have been announced with a suggestion from Cllr Wayne Whittle (Ryde North East) that leisure centres should be run on a “cost neutral” basis to secure their long term future and that proposed hikes in car parking charges should be looked at again.

Speaking today, Cllr Whittle, who speaks for the Conservatives on tourism and business says: “Instead of hiking parking charges to such an extent that they will damage small local businesses and town centres, we should be looking at putting our leisure centres on a stable and sustainable long term footing.

“The Independents are proposing such a tiny tinkering with leisure centre prices that the public subsidy means they undercut the market rate charged by community leisure centres such as The Waterside and the West Wight sports centres which have to cover their own costs.

“After £7million was invested in individual work stations in Council leisure centres, the Independents are proposing no increased charge for their use. This is short-sighted. Most people would agree that when other essential services are being cut, for example school crossing patrols, it’s not unreasonable to expect those who use leisure centres to pay their way.”

The Waterside and West Wight centres’ charge for an adult swim is rising to £4.20, but in subsidised Council centres the proposed increase will leave the new charge at just £3.50. “There’s no proposal to increase the Council’s One Card prices. If prices were aligned with the community pools the Council could scrap proposals to charge for under 8s to swim in school holidays in line with much of the rest of the country.” said Cllr Whittle, who made similar suggestions at the recent meetings of the Isle of Wight Council Cabinet and its Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

“The proposed hikes of 20% in short term parking charges will have a serious and adverse impact upon our town centres and small businesses” argues Cllr Whittle “we need a better balance between charges for parking and leisure. I hope the Council will listen to these sensible and balanced suggestions.”

Further Conservative suggestions on parking charges are also expected to be made in the context of the coming budget debates at Full Council.