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Revealed - Cost of free Ipswich iCards for youngsters and how many people used them

PUBLISHED: 15:31 15 December 2018

The iCards gave youngsters in Ipswich access to sports activities during the summer Picture: PHIL MORLEY

The iCards gave youngsters in Ipswich access to sports activities during the summer Picture: PHIL MORLEY

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Free iCards for Ipswich youngsters last summer cost £100,000 it has emerged, as latest figures have revealed the extent of take up.

Youngsters in Ipswich were given a free iCard for the duration of the six week holidays Picture: JASON NOBLEYoungsters in Ipswich were given a free iCard for the duration of the six week holidays Picture: JASON NOBLE

Ipswich Borough Council pledged free iCards – cards which allow access to gyms and sports activities at borough council run facilities – over the six week summer holidays to all school-aged children in town.

It came as part of response measures to community concerns over vulnerable children being recruited into gangs.

Borough council bosses said they believed there would be a cost to introducing the scheme, with culture and leisure portfolio holder Bryony Rudkin in September stating that she felt the cost was worth it.

Audit committee papers published this month revealed that cost was £100,000.

Ipswich Conservative group leader Ian Fisher said the council had jeopardised income at its sports centres Picture: IPSWICH COUNCILIpswich Conservative group leader Ian Fisher said the council had jeopardised income at its sports centres Picture: IPSWICH COUNCIL

The scheme saw nearly 13,000 sign-ups for the cards, resulting in 18,501 visits to Crown Pools by youngsters over the six weeks, 2,481 visits to the park outreach programmes, 6,919 sports centre visits and 1,688 gym visits.

A borough council spokesman said: “We are really pleased with how this year’s free summer iCard scheme went but there was a cost associated with it.

“We are currently considering what we may be able to deliver in future years as part of our budget planning.”

Ormiston Endeavour Academy in Defoe Road had the highest usage of any secondary school from its cohort.

Jamie Daniels, head of school, said: “We welcomed the council’s initiative across the summer and have been delighted and proud to see so many of our students embrace this opportunity so positively.

“As part of our commitment to enrichment and supporting students to fulfil their full potential, we encourage all students to take part in activities both inside and outside the classroom, which broaden their horizons, raise their aspirations, and support them to succeed in life.”

But the council’s opposition Conservative group questioned the way it was run.

Ian Fisher, Conservative group leader said: “We were in favour of the promotion but always wanted it to be inclusive of all children, not to exclude those going to private school in a pure political ploy.

“When we asked a question about the cost Bryony Rudkin assured us there would be an upside, including parents spending more whilst their children enjoyed the facilities and people booking paid for services once they saw how great the facilities were.

“Unfortunately none of this happened.

“The free iCard usage caused havoc, especially at Crown Pools where anti-social behaviour caused many regular users to stop going there because of the trouble.

“Also income from sports is down a massive £418,000 from April to September indicating a real problem with the service.

“It seems to me that it was merely a gesture with no thinking behind it that really alienated the small amounts of paying customers they had and potentially putting at risk the viability of several services we currently offer.

“It’s another example of the Labour group having no business sense with taxpayers money.”

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