Camden U-Turn for Council
11th December 2018
FOLLOWING their recent climbdown over youth football pitch booking fees, Tunbridge Wells Borough Council has made another U-Turn following anger over the cost of space hire at the Camden Centre.
The council had planned to move a number of people who hire the community centre, including fitness instructors and adult learning teachers, onto a new commercial rate.
The move could have seen increases ranging from 56 per cent to 100 per cent, depending on the room and time of hire.
“The increase in fees from the community rate to the commercial rate are eye watering,” said Councillor Ben Chapelard, Liberal Democrat Leader of the Opposition on Tunbridge Wells Borough Council.
The new charges were set to be implemented on 1 April 2019, but the council has since back-tracked and insisted that existing users of the centre will now pay a revised community rate.
A council spokesman said: “Following feedback from users, we will maintain all current users on the published community rate for 2019-20. This means the majority of users will be paying an extra £1.50 an hour.”
The Liberal Democrats accused the council of a “short-sighted dash for cash” to put money aside for its £94m new town hall complex, a charge denied by the council.
The council spokesman said: “Contrary to popular belief it [Camden Centre] runs at a loss as the council has to pay for business rates, utilities, staff and maintenance.”
Indeed, council figures show that the cost of running the centre exceeds its current income of £94,500 by £24,900.
The spokesman added that new revised community rates were agreed in November and that the council were trying to move commercial users away from the community rate to strike a better balance between the centre's users and taxpayers who subsidise it.
“We have listened to users and will be allowing all users to remain on a reduced community rate,” said Conservative Councillor Jane March.
The U-Turn is the second in just two weeks. The council recently backed down on plans to charge £25 extra per hour for the hire of youth football pitches following protests.