No more free leisure fun for the over-65s

FREE sport and leisure activities for pensioners will be axed and other charges are to soar as Haringey Council battles to balance its budget. Council tax bills will go up three per cent from April, costing the average household an extra

Charlotte Newton

FREE sport and leisure activities for pensioners will be axed and other charges are to soar as Haringey Council battles to balance its budget.

Council tax bills will go up three per cent from April, costing the average household an extra 65p a week.

Pensioners will now have to pay to use the borough's sports centres and pools, including Park Road Leisure Centre in Crouch End and cheap off peak charges for other users will disappear.


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Disgusted pensioner Frank Gordon said: "It's appalling. It's going to cost me roughly a quarter of my state pension - around £23 a week - to go swimming and use the gym each week.

"The council has compared the change in prices to neighbouring boroughs such as Islington and Lewisham but Haringey residents pay a lot more council tax than them.

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"This is going to affect pensioners' use of leisure centres in Haringey which will impinge on the NHS as people become less active and unfit."

Cllr Dave Winskill said: "It's beyond belief that in order to save £52,000, Haringey has decided to raise charges for older people. It is penalising older people who are trying to stay fit and healthy."

Finance boss Cllr Charles Adje defended the rise. He said: "Overall this adds up to a budget package that delivers significant investments for our key priorities, improved levels of efficiency and value for money, and a low council tax increase. It demonstrates that we are delivering real value for money for the people of Haringey."

But Lib Dem finance spokesperson Robert Gorrie said: "Labour's financial mismanagement has cost Haringey's taxpayers dear, and will continue to do so."

The council says the introduction of new price bands at leisure centres will be fairer.

At the moment only 14 per cent of Haringey residents whose household income is below £15,000 a year are taking part in sport three times a week for 30 minutes or more.

Under the new structure, there will be three price bands - standard, advantage plus (covering students, pensioners and children), and advantage (covering residents who receive benefits).

Leisure boss Cllr Dhiren Basu, said: "It's 11 years since we last reviewed our leisure charges and we are confident this new system will encourage far more of our residents to take part in regular exercise.

"Our aim is to ensure our leisure facilities are affordable and accessible for all our residents. We believe it is in the interests of fairness that leisure centre charges should reflect people's ability to pay. That includes older people and disabled people.

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