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Brighton and Hove bowlers hit by slash in council subsidies
Bowling green cuts affecting thousands are to be debated by politicians – thanks to people power.
An estimated 3,000 people, the majority of whom are retired, play bowls in Brighton and Hove.
But Brighton and Hove City Council has said from next season it will reduce the amount it subsidises greens from £150,000 to just £56,000 – causing seasonal passes to rocket by about 200%.
The local authority said the current funding was “not sustainable” as it looked to combat Government cuts.
As more than 1,250 people have now signed a petition against the increases, the issue will be debated at a meeting of full council in Brighton Town Hall on July 19.
Labour councillor Leigh Farrow, who said he had coordinated the collection of signatures, said: “The strong feeling of the bowling |community is echoed in the vast amount of people who have signed this petition.
“This message is a direct one, straight to the Green party who should look at this decision again and do the right thing in doing another U- turn.”
One of the affected clubs is Vicarage Club in Preston Road, Brighton.
It must find an additional £4,450 next year, up from just over £2,000 – a 220% increase.
This means its 38 members would see their membership fees rise from £65 to more than £170 for the six- month playing season.
The Conservative group has submitted a notice of motion urging against the increases to be discussed at the same meeting.
Conservative councillor Vanessa Brown said: “The sport of bowls is enjoyed by many residents of Brighton and Hove, particularly older residents for whom it is an important way of keeping physically and mentally fit and of maintaining social interaction in later life.
“These mean-spirited proposals will put all these benefits at risk and I fear that many of the city’s bowling clubs, which have been a thriving part of our local communities for many years, will fold as a result.”
The local authority said it hoped to save money by making cuts to funding of less popular bowls clubs.
A spokesman said: “Our analysis of the usage of bowling greens in the city shows that we have some popular clubs which operate with a lower subsidy from the council, and some less popular ones which absorb a significant amount of funding in order to keep going.
“Our intention is to work with clubs to access other funding or to merge with other clubs to spread the costs of maintaining the greens and pavilions for the members that use them.
“With the cuts in Government funding the council has to work with we believe this is not sustainable, but we want to make sure that clubs are able to keep supporting bowls players in the city – many of whom are older people.
“We want to give enough time for clubs to consider their position and work up plans, so the proposed changes will not take effect until 2013/14.
“During this time we will do all we can to facilitate the process.”
A council spokesman said: “The council is in open consultation with all bowling clubs, presenting all the data which underlines the proposed £66,000 subsidy reduction.
“The focus of discussion has been ways to improve use of the facilities, and, should any proposal be agreed, it is expected that many clubs could choose to become self-managing, benefitting from the autonomy to use the income from their fees as they see fit to cover their costs and develop their club. The council will support these clubs with a subsidy in the region of £4,000.
“We are keen to hear proposals from clubs and there has been a suggestion that the smaller clubs could share greens. However, the council is still consulting. “