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'Not much fit for life, more fit for price hike' - anger over increase in leisure centre charges and fees

'Not much fit for life, more fit for price hike' - anger over increase in leisure centre charges and fees

Simon Meechan

'Not much fit for life, more fit for price hike' - anger over increase in leisure centre charges and fees

Out-of-pocket sport lovers are angered about increased prices at the borough's now privately-run leisure centres.

Pat McDonald finds it ironic that rising charges coincided with Fit for Life week.

 

Parkwood Leisure took over the management of The Magnet, Cox Green, Windsor and Charters leisure centres from the Royal Borough earlier this month

The move proved controversial. A petition signed by more than 400 people accused the council of 'secrecy' for the way it ploughed forward with the move.

The borough promised 'core charges' for swimming, the gym and court rental would be capped against the retail price index.

Pat McDonald has been playing squash at the Magnet for 20 years. He plays every Friday with a friend.

On Friday Pat - who is a White Waltham Parish councillor and was the Labour Party candidate in the 2010 general election - arrived for his usual match to find the price had gone up by more than £2.

Renting a court now costs Pat £8.50 an hour instead of £6.40. He says the hike undermines the Royal Borough's 'Fit for Life' campaign, which promoted sporting activities from Saturday, January 17 to Sunday, January 25.

Pat said: "Thanks councillors for allowing a private company to rip us off for using facilities local taxpayers paid to have built. Not much fit for life, more fit for price hike."

Swimmer Richard Booth discovered that renewing his annual membership would cost him an extra £178 a year.

The 62-year-old, from Boyn Hill, said he was told there is no discount for those between 60 and 65. Currently he pays £98 for a swim-only membership, which includes a discount for over 60s.

His cheapest renewal option would cost him £276 a year. That would include gym membership, but he only wants to use the pool.

He said: "The irony was the Royal Borough is saying 'fit for life, we want people to exercise regularly,' and the borough seems to have washed their hands of it."

Liberal Democrat campaigner Clive Baskerville said: "The Conservatives made promises that any increases would be less than inflation. These increases are significantly more."

A council spokesman confirmed core prices are capped but said Parkwood is now responsible for special offers and discounts.

Legacy Leisure operates the centres on behalf of Parkwood. General manager Alex Godfrey denied that 'pay and play' individual activity prices have gone up but admitted 'certain promotional offers' have been withdrawn for high-demand activities.

He added existing members can stick with their current deal for 12 months or switch to a new package.

Kevin Mist, council head of leisure services, this week confirmed the borough had paid to have 'around 10' fitness machines installed in the Magnet and Windsor Leisure centres before the handover, costing around £40,000.

He said they were ordered 'months previously', adding: "It was part of our regular investment in the facilities."

He said Parkwood has installed about 80 new machines at the Magnet and 60 at Windsor Leisure Centre.

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