South Lanarkshire leisure user hits out at £40 increase to Activage cost

Edward Cushley has seen the price of his annual Activage pass increase from £80 to £120
Edward Cushley has seen the price of his annual Activage pass increase from £80 to £120 -Credit:Stuart Vance/Hamilton Advertiser

A pensioner has hit out at the £40 increase to the cost of South Lanarkshire’s leisure and culture pass for older people, saying the scale of the 50 per cent price hike will dissuade the age group from keeping fit and active.

Hamilton resident Edward Cushley says he and fellow leisure centre users are “up in arms” and is asking the local authority to reconsider the increase amid the cost of living crisis – noting that neighbouring North Lanarkshire provides an equivalent for half the price.

South Lanarkshire Council say that the Activage price rise, from £80 to £120 per year, is still below half the price of similar provision in 10 other surrounding council areas, and that they have introduced a monthly payment option to allow users to spread the cost.

Edward, of Whitehill, is a regular visitor to Blantyre leisure centre and uses its facilities including the swimming pool, sauna and steam room “two or three times a week, sometimes more”.

The 74-year-old says he “thought it was a wind-up” when he was informed about the increasing cost of over-60s programme Activage, which took effect at the start of this month – and adds that he and several others intend not to renew their annual passes when they expire in the coming months.

He told Lanarkshire Live: “People can’t believe that it’s gone up by so much – to jump from £80 to £120 in one go is a big difference and I honestly thought people at the leisure centre were having a laugh with me when they told me.

“I use the leisure centre a lot and I have friends who I’ve met there; it’s good for physical and mental health and the government and council talk about how they want pensioners to have active lives.

“The increase means it’s a big cost or £12 a month at a time when electricity, insurance, shopping are all going up – but just over the water from us, North Lanarkshire residents have the same for £60 a year, half the price.”

He added: “I’d ask the council to reconsider and drop the price back; it’s such a big jump and hasn’t even been phased in over time. There’s nothing else provided for senior citizens now and we’re also seeing things like introducing costs for uplifts too.”

The Activage pass allows over-60s to access South Lanarkshire’s nine swimming pools and health suites, 16 gyms, ice rink, golf courses and fitness classes; plus library and cultural activities and benefits including six free rounds of golf per year, tennis court hire and putting plus access to a series of “active days”.

Its 50 per cent price increase was agreed in February by councillors, who heard that it is expected to generate additional income of £287,000 per year towards the South Lanarkshire Leisure and Culture (SLLC) budget gap of more than £6.3 million for the year.

A report for the executive committee noted that a survey completed by nearly 1700 members saw 95 per cent agree that the pass represented value for money, and that three quarters would accept price increases “if it assisted in delivering continued service provision”.

It also showed the price of similar leisure passes for the age group in 11 council areas, showing that South Lanarkshire’s increased cost remains the second-lowest behind North Lanarkshire – with six authorities charging between £240 and £280 and the highest charge being nearly £500.

Councillors were told: “SLLC is experiencing extraordinary financial pressures due to inflation levels on areas including pay, utilities and contracts combined with the impacts of reducing public sector funding; leisure and cultural providers across Scotland are considering or have implemented price increases and many have also reduced the scope of their services.”

The price increase was accompanied by the introduction of new monthly payments, compared to the previous requirement to pay upfront or in two instalments – with local authority officials saying the direct debit option “has been welcomed by many customers already” and that £10 per month is “lower than the concession rate on a standard fitness membership”.

An SLLC spokesperson told Lanarkshire Live: “Before proposing the increase, we considered fitness products that closely match Activage that are offered by 10 neighbouring local authorities, and found that nine cost more than the amount we had proposed, with some being considerably higher.

“We believe that SLLC Activage remains great value for money with a huge range of benefits included, such as access to all of our indoor leisure facilities as well as ice skating, golf, library activities and discounts for our cultural events, for only £10 per month.”

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