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Clubs face PS40k bill for pitches.

Byline: LIZ BRADFIELD Local democracy reporter liz.bradfield@walesonline.co.uk

BRIDGEND Council has been accused of trying to "frighten" sports clubs into taking on the running of pitches by hiking prices.

Clubs in the county borough face having to pay more than PS40,000 a year if they want to continue to use outdoor facilities, a councillor has warned.

Bridgend County Borough Council (BCBC) has said it can no longer afford to take care of pitches and pavilions for the public due to ongoing local government cuts.

It wants sports clubs and town and community councils to take on facilities themselves through its community asset transfer (CAT) process - saying if they don't, then facilities will eventually disappear.

New figures show the potential scale of charges from April 2020.

They involve rugby and football clubs paying PS200 every time they use a pitch and about PS100 every time they use a sports pavilion - five times the amount they pay currently.

At a scrutiny committee meeting on Thursday, September 5, Councillor David Lewis said it would leave a rugby club like Tondu having to pay in excess of PS40,000 to use the facilities based on the number of teams it has and there being 30 weekends in a season.

He called it "ridiculous" and accused officers of putting in the figures to "frighten" clubs into undertaking CATs.

Meanwhile, bowls clubs would have to pay PS28,500 a year, while cricket clubs would need to fork out PS27,500 per season for pitches.

BCBC chief executive Mark Shephard said the figures related to the current level of subsidy the council had been paying for clubs to play and that clubs would have to rethink their priorities.

He said: "This is about trying to sustain facilities for future generations.

We are saying we will not be able to afford to run them.

"By default, these facilities will close, not necessarily immediately.

"If I was a rugby or football club, I would be talking now about creating an all-sports association."

However, councillors said they wanted to see a breakdown of the maintenance costs, saying they believed they were "extremely inflated".

Zak Shell, head of operations for community services, told councillors: "Full cost recovery is the backstop for those who don't want to engage with the CAT process. None of this is ideal - we are closing pavilions as we speak."

A recent public consultation on the proposals saw more than 2,100 people respond, with 43% saying that sports organisations should consider taking responsibility for playing fields and pavilions, while almost a third were against and a quarter unsure.

Meanwhile, almost half said town and community councils should consider taking on the responsibility for the running of sports pitches and pavilions, with a quarter of respondents being against.

The council currently oversees 39 playing fields and 40 pavilions, the majority of which it says are in a poor state of repair.

It aims to cut PS369,000 from the communities budget by either transferring outdoor sports facilities to community groups or charging clubs full cost recovery.

The scrutiny committee's recommendations will go before cabinet when it considers the outcome of the consultation report next month.

CAPTION(S):

Tondu RFC would be one of the clubs facing big bills to use pitches due to the number of teams they run
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Sep 11, 2019
Words:555
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