Price hikes plan for Leeds sport centres

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COUNCIL bosses in Leeds are set to kick off Olympic year by putting up prices at leisure centres across the city.

An internal city council report has revealed plans to increase the cost of many activities at local authority-managed centres by three to four per cent from January 1, 2012.

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The fees rises would come at the start of a year when the London Olympics are expected to spark renewed enthusiasm among Brits for participating in sport.

Their introduction would also take place against a background of a decline in demand for some activities and increased competition from the private sector, says the report.

It further warns that Leeds’s sport prices are already “relatively high” compared to those charged by other Yorkshire councils and fellow regional heavyweights such as Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle.

News of the proposed rises drew criticism today from Coun John Procter, spokesman for leisure with the Labour-run council’s opposition Conservative group.

He said: “The administration seems to want to punish people for wanting to keep fit.

“The council says it is committed to keeping people healthy [but] it seems this only applies if you pay grandly for the privilege.”

Key elements of the price change blueprint include:

* A 10p rise in the cost of many junior swimming lessons;

* A three per cent increase in the price of peak time casual gym sessions;

* An increase in the cost of activities such as fitness classes, adult casual swimming and badminton that will work out at around four per cent on average.

The proposed changes were defended today by Coun Adam Ogilvie, the council’s executive board member for leisure.

He blamed the planned rises on “drastic” cuts in Government funding and pointed out that some charges, such as those for Bodyline gym membership, would be frozen.

Referring to the Tory-Lib Dem coalition that until recently ran the council, Coun Ogilvie added: “The increase in the cost of an adult swim from £4.20 to £4.40 is something we would not do if we had a choice.

“However this increase is small compared to the 40p rise which Coun Procter himself introduced at the beginning of 2010.”