'Tennis session contract with private firm could be tip of the iceberg'
Cllr Luke Cawley-Harrison (Lib Dem), opposition leader, Haringey Council
- Credit: PA Images
For more than a year, we have been isolated from our loved ones, and cut off from the outside world.
For many of us, sports, recreation and exercise have been some of the main activities keeping us going. A couple of months ago, I was so pleased to see the reopening of outdoor sports facilities such as tennis and basketball courts, a welcome first tentative step towards normality, and a much-needed avenue for the leisure-time that has been so lacking.
It was therefore extremely disappointing to see the council entering into a contract with a private company, which removes many of our council tennis courts from public use at peak times.
The company will run private tennis sessions on the courts, and I am concerned this could be the tip of the iceberg.
At present the company is using the courts in many of our parks for around eight hours a week, but the agreement with the council permits them to go up to 48 hours a week per location.
Late last year, the Liberal Democrats ran a successful campaign to prevent Haringey’s Labour council introducing charges to use public tennis courts. Now more than ever, we need these courts to remain free, letting people get out of their homes, have fun and improve their physical and mental health.
With the backing of residents, we were able to ensure that courts remained free for public use, but sadly it looks as though it was only a temporary reprieve.
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The council claims that these charges will pay for “free and low-cost coaching opportunities”, but this is a service which they have historically provided anyway.
What’s more, the contract will raise just £30,000 - less than 0.01% of the council’s total budget.
Of course I want to see free coaching opportunities for young people, but in this case it looks like the money is already there to do that.
One of the biggest failings in this is that the council decided not to consult people on this change, quietly alerting people with small signs on courts once the deal was done. That isn’t right.
We have set up a survey to hear residents’ views, and so far 90% of those responding are opposed to Labour’s plans, with the remaining 10% undecided, but wanting the decision to be based on public consultation.
If you too want to fill in the survey, please head over to haringeylibdems.org/tennis and let us know what you think.
Cllr Luke Cawley-Harrison is leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition on Haringey Council.