Agenda item

Sarah Kerr asked the Executive Member for Environment and Leisure the following question:


Who was involved in the decision-making process for the price increases at St Crispins Leisure Centre that has led to in some cases, a 4-fold increase in cost for some users?"



Who was involved in the decision-making process for the price increases at St Crispin’s Leisure Centre that has led to in some cases, a 4-fold increase in cost for some users?



Within the existing terms and conditions for those that hold a membership with Places Leisure (or PFP for short), changes can be made to memberships and at this point members will be notified prior to any changes and can, if they wish, review their membership options or cancel their membership.


Proposed price changes that are not deemed core pricing sessions (which are increased yearly as per inflation and agreed with the Sport and Leisure Team) are put forward for discussion and review and once agreed PFP will initiate the changes in line with their terms and conditions.


The change in cost relates to a legacy membership inherited by PFP from the previous contractors in May 2018 and not a current membership option that PFP offer within their pricing structure.  The legacy memberships were honoured for over three years whilst refurbishment and improvement works were carried out across all Wokingham sites.


The membership implemented for those that were on a legacy 1Life membership is not a rackets membership, as mentioned above and there is no such membership that PFP offer.  The implemented membership is excellent value when combined with usage of the gym, fitness classes, swimming and 50% off racket sports usage.


Racket sport hire prices have not increased since 1st June 2019, instead the booking structure for members has been reviewed and amended in June 2021, the headline membership rate is £41 a month unlimited use and has not been increased this year, and there are no plans to review it until next year.  On average, members book a racket court once or twice a week.  The frequency of use ensures that membership is still excellent value.


The members that were affected and have raised concerns and are eligible were immediately transferred to a more suitable senior (over 60’s) membership, benefiting from unlimited access to the gym, group exercise and classes along with the 50% reduction on courts at St Crispin’s Leisure Centre and for only £29.00 a month.


Recommendations are also encouraged that those members split the price of a squash court with their playing partner, rather than paying for it themselves, therefore reducing the racket usage by half.


Places Leisure pricing remains extremely competitive and in many areas versus other like-for-like leisure providers in the local area (for instance Everyone Active in Bracknell and GLL in Reading) and we provide excellent value for money in which we encourage the residents of Wokingham to use these fantastic facilities and they are of the best in the country..


Supplementary Question

I am quite surprised by your answer.  I mean you have already highlighted that these price increases particularly affect squash players as you are aware.    We have actually crunched the numbers and it is more expensive now to use the squash courts at St Crispin’s than Wellington Health and Fitness Club.


A much better facility at Wellington Health and Fitness Club is actually cheaper than St Crispin’s.  St Crispin’s is a Council owned facility.


My question is how are you intending to fulfil the Council’s Leisure Strategy, of increasing participation in sports and leisure activities, when you price people out of using facilities run supposedly for public benefit?


Supplementary Answer

I think that I did explain that these were legacy charges which were not there, people enjoyed free sessions off-peak and those sessions have lasted for three years and we do not intend to carry these on. The PFP have implemented a price for those off-peak sessions.  Squash is a fantastic game unfortunately we have to be competitive. 


As you are aware Sarah Wokingham Borough Council is the lowest funded authority in the Country and we rely solely on the increased income that we get through our council tax paid by our fantastic residents. We want to use these funds wisely to provide our sports and facilities which are the best in the country and as such all of our residents to enjoy these facilities through paying appropriate and competitive prices.


So, I do not know where you are going to get your forward price increases and really I am at a loss to understand that.