Shame on skinflint council for axeing senior leisure passes

When Haringey Council s Labour councillors in our area betrayed their constituents over local issues, the next election saw them swept away across the board to be replaced by Liberal Democrats. Wards in the east of the borough, trusting their councillors,

When Haringey Council's Labour councillors in our area betrayed their constituents over local issues, the next election saw them swept away across the board to be replaced by Liberal Democrats. Wards in the east of the borough, trusting their councillors, remained Labour.

Now, residents throughout Haringey have cause to call their Labour councillors to account.

On the advice of an external consultant at a cost of £12.000 (was there no-one within the council's executive competent to tackle the task?) a new pricing policy for the council's sports and leisure centres is to replace the current structure.

OAPs like myself are to subsidise cheap access for those on benefit, by losing their valued free passes and concessions, unless the OAPs are themselves on benefits.

This totally contradicts government policy to encourage us to take responsibility for our health, making it harder for the elderly to exercise and enjoy the companionship so important for physical and emotional well-being... which in turn would save primary care trusts thousands of pounds!

It also contradicts recent government initiatives to break the culture of living off the state, without incentive to seek work, by enabling the unemployed to while away summer days at the Lido for £1.50 while OAPs, who could previously enjoy a swim and fresh air for free, will now pay £3.

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Emotions ran high at the recent meeting at Park Road Leisure Centre, attended by around 150 users. We were invited to hear the council explain the new pricing policy... not to consult on it.

Confronted with a fait accompli, the response to the changes was one of almost unanimous outrage and cynicism.

Loud applause met the call for the self-congratulatory Haringey People council magazine to be scrapped or cut to save money instead of penalising older, real 'Haringey People'.

A pensioner couple wishing to use the centre regularly will now pay £42 monthly, or £504 annually, plus parking charges, when formerly attendance for over 65s was free.

This is a huge amount to budget for. The increase of £3 a week in pensions is unlikely to cover even the extra cost of heating.

It is sickening that pensioners who have little leeway to increase their income, and have worked all their lives and paid income tax and full council tax should be targeted this way.

Even those in work with families may pay more, making it in some cases more advantageous to stay at home and live off benefits and enjoy the perks on offer.

The Alice in Wonderland State Haringey would have us inhabit defies common sense and logic. While it is commendable to encourage the disaffected to exercise and help those on low income to access leisure centres, penalising pensioners facing the physical and financial challenges of ageing is a poorly-considered solution.

Improve sports facilities for schools, create apprenticeship schemes, encourage young people to get involved in setting up their own recreational projects... give them a say.

Provide opportunities for job-sharing so mothers can work part-time for worthwhile rates. Help the community to achieve a sense of self-worth and empowerment.

Don't disempower the elderly who have more than paid their way! We won't take this sitting down!

Susan Bennett

St Regis Close, N10

I must support those who have written to condemn Haringey Labour for their contemptuous decision to scrap free passes to leisure facilities for the borough's older people and replace this well liked and much-appreciated system with the harsh, mean spiritedness of the means test.

Apart form the dubious morality of this attack on people who have paid taxes and the council charge all their lives, it is also the message that this sends to people who have heeded the government's call to get out and exercise.

The whole thrust of health care in the UK is geared towards prevention: regular exercise strengthens the muscles and skeleton, improves the immune and respiratory systems and can help alleviate depression and loneliness.

I would like to hear from Haringey's health partners what their views are on this pathetic 'initiative' to save £52,000 - minus the money already shelled out to consultants.

We have also launched an online petition (demanding that Haringey Council drop this ridiculous idea) which I would like to invite all your readers to sign - www.

Shame on you, Haringey.

Cllr David Winskill

Lib Dem Leisure, Culture and Lifelong Learning Spokesperson

Haringey Council