COUNCIL chiefs are being taken to task for whacking up the price of football pitches 45 per cent - amid claims the game is being unfairly targeted.
From April Worcester City Council wants to increase the cost of renting a pitch from £24 to £35, saying it could rake in £7,000 extra revenue.
The move would hit more than 1,000 adults who regularly play in the city, and is being looked at because the authority is under major financial pressure.
But the rise was heavily criticised by Labour Councillor Jo Hodges, who said the "football fraternity" is having to accept too heavy a hike.
Speaking during the performance, management and budget scrutiny committee last night, she said: "Football involves over 1,000 adults in Worcester every weekend on Saturdays and Sundays, these people are playing a traditional sport and they do it for many reasons.
"They do it for fitness, leisure, for social reasons too and if this 45 per cent rise is imposed it will affect a huge number of people, for just £7,000.
"We should also consider the amount of money the Football Foundation has put into Worcester over the last few years.
"The football fraternity would accept the constraints the council is under, and therefore accept some kind of rise but not this much."
But council chiefs hit back by saying due to the number of likely players on a full-sized pitch, 22 for 11 versus 11, a £35 charge is only just over £1 each.
David Sutton, head of the cleaner and greener department, said: "It's a decision for the council to make but this is a reasonable cost for 90 minutes of activity on a well-mowed, well marked out pitch."
He said games involving substitutes and other helpers could bring the cost down to "less than £1 each," and told the meeting it compared fairly well to other councils.
Councillor Simon Geraghty, leader of the Tory group said: "I think it's worth flagging things like this up when they seem unfair."
But Councillor Joy Squires, who chaired the panel, said although "people won't like it" given the number of players involved it is not "that high".
The rise is part of the 2014/15 budget, which is being voted on next month at full council.
The budget includes just under £1 million of spending reductions due to a 15 per cent fall in central Government funding.