Tuesday 4 March 2014

Friday's agenda - A Motion to halt rocketing sports fees

(Update 5th March below)

Meanwhile, like a creaking ship riddled with woodworm, council business continues with a meeting on Friday (7th). The agenda can be found here and the webcast, starting at 10am, here.

One issue which has infuriated many local people is the decision to inflate fees and charges for sports facilities over the next couple of years, in some cases by more than 2000%.  To give a couple of examples, the cost of using a cricket pitch is currently £28 but by 2016 this will rise to £590. Children's rugby will jump from £25 to £95 and junior cricket from £18.59 to £110.

What makes it even more difficult to stomach is the blinding hypocrisy from County Hall. Kevin Madge (yes, still leader of the council) recently said;

"....we are facing our toughest budget yet, and we simply cannot afford to continue subsidising clubs to pay their maintenance fees. Whilst being mindful that over 70 clubs operate on their own, with no taxpayer subsidy, we want to make things fair for everyone"

What must strike many of course, apart from Kevin Madge, is the 'continued subsidising' to Scarlets Regional Ltd, tough budget or not. To continue to subsidise one club and of course the stadium, whilst basically asset-stripping the rest is simply an untenable situation. As for maintenance fees, an agreement in 2008 that the Scarlet's contribute to a 'sinking fund' (maintenance) was 'waived' for three years and now starts at a much reduced level, thanks to the Exec Board.

The European Commission is currently in receipt of a complaint that the council may have breached State Aid Rules by subsidising the club with public money. Late last year we discovered that a deal over the sale of a council owned car park, leased to the Scarlets resulted in £280,000 of 'allowable expenses' being deducted from the proceeds to be used by the club to pay off a third party loan.

Using Parc Y Scarlets as glorified council offices means that whilst the club doesn't have to pay rent until such time as it returns a huge profit, the council, bizarrely, pays them rent instead, and in various and imaginative forms.

The Scarlets are of course important in the sporting world of Carmarthenshire but their survival, and more specifically the stadium, shouldn't be to the detriment of the hundreds of youngsters and volunteers who enjoy all sports in towns and villages across the county. Which is, unfortunately, exactly how it looks.

The continuing unlawful payments scandal doesn't help either, not just the financial generosity show to the well paid Chief Executive but the cost of legal advice and representation, officer time, etc etc which has been frittered away to defend those payments over recent months on behalf of the aforementioned Chief Exec.
With the annual Pay Policy Statement also appearing on the agenda, listing the top earners, including one sat at home on full pay, the rocketing sports charges are even more unjustifiable and downright unfair.

The increase in charges was decided by the Executive Board alone; Kevin Madge, Meryl Gravell, Pam Palmer and co, and as we know, they are not renowned for their reasoned and responsible decision making.

However, Cllr Emlyn Dole (Plaid) has put forward a Notice of Motion for Friday's meeting asking for a freeze on the increase in charges so that representatives from the various sports organisations can enter 'meaningful discussion' with the council. At least the subject will have a public airing.

The council Executive may have engineered their survival at last week's No Confidence vote but, had it been up to the people of Carmarthenshire, they'd be OUT.


Update 5th March;
Kevin Madge, in an attempt to salvage some credibility and yet another embarrassing showdown on Friday has announced, via the Llanelli Star of course, a full review and further talks over these price hikes.

He has promised to 'go back to the drawing board' - let's hope he is serious. The increases planned for year one, 2014/15, will go ahead but the increases for years two and three will be 'reviewed'.

1 comment:

passerby said...

if there is time to ask a question whether it's logical or not, even to satisfy the curiosity, wonder if anyone will ask if the cuts are actually 'legal'.

a subsidy or a grant means a bursary. in most cases non repayable unless stated in an application. a bursary doesn't normally have to be reimbursed. unless it was actually a legal loan or a repayable grant.

some grants that have no conditions attached do have to be repayed in certain circumstances such as if a club gets sold etc inside a particular timescale.

paws for thought