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Councillor calls fault on Wirral tennis charges
THE national euphoria generated by Andy Murray’s Olympic tennis gold has been dampened in Wirral by a council cabinet decision to increase tennis lesson charges for youngsters by a massive 20%.
Teenagers face charges of £6 a session at Wirral Tennis and Leisure Centre, bringing costs to within 75p of the price adults pay.
Lib-Dem Cllr Stuart Kelly accused the ruling Labour administration of “sneaking this controversial decision out of the way without any meaningful consultation or discussions with Wirral’s tennis clubs.”
He said the decision had been taken behind closed doors just as the nation basked in Olympic and sporting success.
Cllr Kelly went on: “Most young people have little or no independent income and normally get the advantage with lower charges. This is being eroded.”
He conceded that prices needed to be reviewed from time to time, commenting: “I support an across-the-board strategic review of all prices charged in all centres across all ages and sport.
“Why then has tennis been singled out and a decision taken outside the review? I hope the council leader (Cllr Phil Davies) will intervene to rescind the decision and not proceed before it’s ‘game, set and match’ for young people’s tennis in Wirral.”
The cabinet was told by Jim Lester, head of cultural services, that tennis tuition was becoming increasingly expensive in relation to the income generated.
This, he said, had accelerated over recent years as a result of the expansion and successful take-up of the present tennis programme.
Instructors’ pay had increased and revenue grant funding had been reduced. A study of current coaching costs, balanced against price and income generated – at an estimated 75% occupancy level – revealed that prices across all courses would need to be increased by an average of 7% to break even.
The Lawn Tennis Association, who recently provided £70,000 capital finance to refurbish facilities at Wirral Tennis and Leisure Centre, were consulted on the proposals.
They advised that prices at the complex were low in comparison with similar centres in the region and they “probably could be increased accordingly.”
The cabinet resolved that the new charges should be introduced “with immediate effect to ensure the continued viability of the development programme currently in place, and its ability to further expand, thrive and prosper.”
Cllr Chris Meaden, Wirral's cabinet member for culture, tourism and leisure said: "Tennis coaching in Wirral has become increasingly expensive due to a number of factors, including an increase in instructor pay, reduction in revenue grant support, and increased costs.
"Despite the new prices, coaching costs in Wirral are still very competitive when compared to others in the region.
"The new charges were also approved by the Lawn Tennis Association who also said our pricing was very competititive.
"As a Beacon site for tennis, we understand the importance of encouraging new talent, and work closely with the Lawn Tennis Association throughout Wirral offering free and affordable tennis to youngsters from all over Wirral who are welcome to join us in Birkenhead Park every Sunday from 10am to noon for free tennis coaching sessions.
"We also go into schools working with children of all abilities in a bid to spot new talent and encourage young people to play sport.
"Anyone who would like further information can call our tennis development officer Chris Thelwall on 0151 670 0000 for further details and I would urge them to do so."