Anger over leisure prices rises

LEISURE centre users are being urged to challenge new prices for swimming and fitness packages after a company raised some charges by up to 24 per cent.

LEISURE centre users are being urged to challenge new prices for swimming and fitness packages after a company raised some charges by up to 24 per cent.

Suffolk Coastal council has handed over its leisure centre at Felixstowe to a trust and a private company to save taxpayers £245,000 a year - but the move is having a sting in its tail for some customers.

Councillor Dot Paddick said she had been contacted by a number of people unhappy at changes to what they were paying for use of the facilities.

"One of the biggest complaints is that people are being told they must pay for things they don't want and so must pay more," she said.

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"I have had one elderly couple come to me who enjoy swimming for exercise and they are very angry and upset at being asked to pay a lot more."

So angry was Graham Parker at being asked to pay 24pc more that he made protest posters and pinned them round the centre.

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Mr Parker and his wife Marion, of Rosemary Avenue, Felixstowe, were asked to pay £68 per month for their bronze couple membership - £13 more than they had been paying.

Mr Parker, who runs an IT business offering support for small businesses giving advice on start-up and expansion projects, tried to contact centre managers without success, and also wrote to the council's chief executive, head of finance and leisure department without reply.

Only after he put up the posters did DC Leisure - which has a contract to run the centre for the next decade - contact him, and then agreed to reduce the payment to £56 per month.

"It certainly seems to pay to kick up a fuss, but why should we have to do that - you don't have to barter in shops over what you buy. It's like Monty Python," he said.

"I was told the new package would let me swim or use the sauna for free - great! I haven't wanted to use this in the last five years so why would I now? We only want to use the gym.

"I would certainly advise anyone who has received a letter telling them they are going to pay more to complain and refuse."

Leisure services manager at Suffolk Coastal council Joe Liggett said there had been a number of complaints arising from rationalisation of the centre's complex charging structure into a simpler system, but many people had benefited from the changes. The council had been consulted and was satisfied that the changes proposed were reasonable.

Adjustments had been made to allow the over 60s to continue with their original packages.

Centre manager Paul Johnson said many prices had come down, and the packages themselves now offered more for money with people having access to more facilities.

What do you think about the charges at Felixstowe Leisure Centre? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail

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