Shetland Recreational Trust is to increase charges for its sports facilities by around five per cent from the beginning of April.
Trustees unanimously agreed the price rise, which follows a six per cent increase last year, at a meeting on Tuesday.
SRT general manager James Johnston explained there was little alternative after funding body Shetland Charitable Trust announced a standstill budget for the next three years. The only other option, he said, would have been to cut opening hours at some of the SRT’s leisure centres.
The standard price for a swim at Clickimin will rise by 20 pence to £3.60 from 1st April, while the cost of a swim at any of the rural pools will go up from £2.15 to £2.25. The standard hourly rate for a single badminton court is to increase by 40 pence to £7.90.
A 90-minute session at the Clickimin’s fitness suite will go up from £5.30 to £5.60, while at most rural centres a visit to the gym will set you back £4.20, a rise of 20 pence on this year’s prices.
Mr Johnston said meeting the rising cost of energy and other running costs continued to prove challenging. He stressed that, even after the latest increase, prices at SRT leisure centres will remain broadly in line with the Scottish average.
As of November, inflation under the retail price index (RPI) stood at 5.2 per cent. The SRT said there was a recognition of these “difficult times” for household budgets, with many working people’s incomes not keeping up pace with the high rate of inflation.
However there has been a four per cent year-on-year increase in the level of activity at SRT centres in the first six months of the year, which has eased lingering concerns about pricing punters out of using the centres.
“The belief is that if we continue to offer high level of service then the customers are getting value for money,” Mr Johnston said. “One of the key factors is that SRT prices are still, following this increase, in line with the Scottish average. Any level of charges is going to be unpopular, but we’ve tried to keep it just at the rate of inflation.”
Through the SRT’s concession scheme, those under the age of 18, registered disabled and people aged 60 or over are eligible for discounts of up to 50 per cent on standard prices.
Following changes agreed this week, full-time students and those receiving certain government benefits will no longer be able to get concession prices.
Mr Johnston explained there had been “instances of abuse” under the old concession setup, including the trickiness of verifying whether people were in full-time education due to the number of part-time students in Shetland.
He said the trust was working with the SIC’s social work department and was committed to doing what it could to help “the unemployed and people in real need” to use the centres on a case-by-case basis.
Meanwhile the trust is to seek funding towards a study outlining how much Shetland gains, both economically and socially, from its network of leisure centres. A similar study, carried out by accountants Baker Tilly, showed that North Lanarkshire Council’s arms-length leisure organisation generated economic activity worth more than four times the public money it received.