Rising gym costs get Dales folk in a sweat

Andrew Heaney with his daughtets, Lydia and Hatty outside the Arc Leisure Centre in Matlock.
Andrew Heaney with his daughtets, Lydia and Hatty outside the Arc Leisure Centre in Matlock.

Struggling Dales residents have been struck by leisure cost increases of up to 40 per cent as the cash–strapped council scrambles to keep up with spending cuts.

Parents have been forced to cancel their children’s gym membership at Arc Leisure, in Matlock, after Derbyshire Dales District Counil increased the price.

Andrew Heaney, of Matlock Bath, was shocked to learn the price of his two daughters’ joint concessionary gym membership was to increase from £276 last year to £384 – an increase of £108.

Lydia, 15, and Hatty, 17, are both members of Derby County Ladies Football Club.

“They have training a couple of times a week ,” he said.

“I would have thought the council had a moral obligation to try and encourage kids to exercise.”

Andrew, who works as a support worker, added: “I just can’t afford to pay the increase, I don’t earn a lot of money.

“People might must say it’s only £9 a month, but it’s £100 a year.”

Likewise, Matlock mum Lisa Gregory had to make the tough decision to cancel her 15–year–old daughter Natasha’s membership at Arc Leisure.

She said: “In the last six months she really got into healthy eating and then they brought a £5.50 increase in. You could stand a £1 increase or even £2 – but I just can’t afford £5.50.

“I understand the state the country is in and there has to be an increase, but they’ve slapped it all on in one year.”

Fellow Arc Leisure member Andrea Swift received a letter from the council saying her membership was due to go up from £14 a month to £18 from the beginning of April.

“I am seriously thinking about cancelling my membership too and will start up running as this doesn’t cost me anything,” she said. “I try and do my bit by supporting my local leisure centre but putting prices up way beyond the rate of inflation is just not on.”

Government cutbacks have left Derbyshire Dales District Council facing the task of making £1.9million spending cuts over the next six years.

Following a review of council–provided leisure costs, the authority decreased the concessionary rate from 50 per cent of the full price to 33 per cent – in line with neighbouring authorities.

A council spokesman said: “The four leisure centres we run in Matlock, Ashbourne, Bakewell and Wirksworth currently cost the council £1.8million every year.

“Yet another reduction in the grant we receive from central Government means we have to find ways to reduce that deficit in the coming year.

“So some leisure fees and charges are increasing following a major review of our leisure services. However, we’ve tried to be as fair as possible and, even after making these increases, are confident our charges represent great value for money when compared with other Derbyshire authorities. Concessions are still available for children, retired and disabled people and anyone in financial hardship, and we’ve introduced new flexible payment options to suit the needs of users.

“We’ve reduced our gym joining fee from £41.50 to £25 and have been waiving the joining fee completely since the start of the year for new pay–as–you go members.

“Also new for 2014 is that children who are signed up for our swimming lessons can use our pools for free.

“The cost of our gym membership and swim membership is now the equivalent of what it costs non–members to use our facilities five times in a month – so members who visit more often than that really are getting a great deal.”