Users of Newtownabbey Borough Council’s leisure centres and Zest gym facilities could see their fees increase from April next year.
At their monthly Leisure Committee meeting on Monday evening (November 4), members agreed a series of price rises, designed to bring local gym and leisure centre fees more into line to those currently charged by Antrim Borough Council - a step being taken in preparation for the merger of the two councils in 2015.
From April 2014, the council is planning to increase the monthly Zest Fitness membership fee from £25 to £26, with fees for over 60s and GP referrals likely to rise from £16.50 to £18. People with disabilities are expected to benefit from the changes, with their fees dropping from £25 to £18 per month.
Members were also presented with details of proposed price increases for those using the council’s swimming pools, with rises ranging from 20p per session to 60p on the cost of a family ticket.
DUP councillor Robert Hill raised concerns that Antrim Borough Council currently charges £31.50 per month for use of its gym facilities, and he questioned what steps councillors and officers in Antrim are making in a bid to bring their prices down, closer to the fees charged in Newtownabbey.
He stressed that Newtownabbey Council’s gym facilities face considerable competition from the private sector and reminded the meeting that the council has a duty to provide “affordable” leisure facilities - a point echoed by his party colleague, Alderman Paul Girvan.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Girvan queried the logic of putting prices up at a time when the council is trying to encourage more people to get active.
Cllr John Scott, who is opposed to the council merger, described the move as “very unfair on the people of Newtownabbey”.
“People’s rates are going to go up and now we are going to have to bring our leisure facilities up to their prices as well - it’s completely wrong,” the UUP man said.
Hugh Kelly, the council’s director of leisure services, assured members that officers would be working to “try to get a balance”.
The committee’s decision still has to be ratified when the full council meets on November 25.