Clubs welcomed yesterday’s U-turn on the proposed £62 fee [which represented a 68 per cent hike] – which they had called an ‘ill-conceived’ idea.
Tunbridge Wells Borough Council [TWBC] passed the motion in a Cabinet meeting on Thursday as part of their wider fees and charges setting for 2019/20.
Hire costs for the youth football 11-a-side pitches will now be set at £39, a £2 increase.
Cllr Jane March, Portfolio Holder for Tourism and Leisure, said: “Hearing people’s responses after the Cabinet meeting, I felt it was very important that we should keep all increases in line, and so I have asked that the youth pitch charge is reduced accordingly.
“The council values sport and health for all ages and we wouldn’t wish to discourage teenagers from participating.”
There will also be slight increases to junior, mini and training football pitch hire costs.
The Conservative-led authority listed 12 means to boost their accounts by almost £1million in the face of central government reductions.
Cllr Tracy Moore, Portfolio Holder for Economic Development, said: “These charges, where they have been increased, are because of the government grant reduction to zero – and also inflation pressures of around 3 per cent.
“We are having some success with introducing electronic payment for a number of our services. That reduces cost to us and improves efficiency. More than 75 per cent of our residents are now paying their council tax by direct debit.”
Other measures include:
• Modifying waste and recycling operations, which will generate £722,620 – a 798 per cent rise from the £80,460 this currently brings in.
• The cost of burying ashes will nearly double to £125 as part of changes to the Crematorium’s fees, which will altogether bring in an extra £199,561.
• Increasing booking fees for the Assembly Hall Theatre for collections in person by 185 per cent from £1.46 to £4.16.
The changes to garden waste had been approved in a previous meeting and it proved to be the football pitch proposal that provoked the greatest discontent.
Stuart Newman, Vice Chairman of Tunbridge Wells Foresters Football Club, said of the original plan: “I think it is ill-conceived, why would a council that claims to promote sport do this?
“We are seen by them as a soft target for a revenue raising exercise. We would have to put fees up, which means an increase for the parents.
“The council do not see how leagues have shrunk as people are being priced out of sport. We have more and more hurdles to get the coaches’ licences, it is harder to get volunteers and referee costs have also gone up.”
Foresters Football Club have a large number of youth teams of all age categories and use several pitches around Tunbridge Wells, which will all be affected.
Mr Newman said after hearing about the U-turn: “This was always a silly decision and totally unfair in the first place. Why was football just picked on?”
TWBC has the additional pressure of needing to finance the £90million Calverely Square Civic Complex and theatre project.
Cllr Ben Chapelard, the council’s Opposition Leader, refutes the council’s line that the rise in fees and charges is not linked to funding the controversial project. The Liberal Democrat member for St James’ said: “Conservatives are trying to get round the government’s 3 per cent council tax cap by putting up its charges.
“Councils receive less money but this new tax has nothing to do with protecting the services residents currently get.
“Fees are being hiked locally so that TWBC can put money aside to fund their £90million Calverley Square.”