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Council changes tack over 45 per cent hike in football pitch rents
COUNCIL chiefs in Worcester have relented on whacking the price of renting football pitches up 45 per cent after major pressure from city clubs.
Worcester City Council's Labour leadership says the hikes, which were due to come into force from April, will now be phased in over two years.
Charges to use the pitches will now rise 22.5 per cent this year, and at exactly the same rate again in April 2015.
The move, which will lose the council an estimated £3,000 in revenue next year, came after serious gripes from the Worcester & District Football League.
The league, which meets every weekend during the football season, has more than 1,900 players.
Officials had been lobbying Councillor Adrian Gregson, city council leader, for several weeks about what the 45 per cent hike could do to the league.
Standard football pitches prices were due to go from £24 to £35, but the 22.5 per cent rise will now take it to £29.50.
The same percentage rates will apply to the pitches with changing rooms, such as Pitchcroft, where it will go from £35 to around £43.90, instead of £50.
The league also said it was concerned about the maintenance of the pitches, arguing if they paid more they want better facilities.
In recent weeks Councillor Jo Hodges, who represents Labour in Warndon, had also been urging her fellow party members to scrap it.
Cllr Gregson, speaking during a cabinet meeting, said he accepted the arguments put forward.
"The argument about the maintenance and condition of some of the pitches and the higher charges coming on board all at once is accepted," he said. But he also rounded on some of his critics, by saying he believes Worcester has bigger issues to tackle.
"I struggle somewhat in the face of Government cutbacks, youth unemployment, welfare cuts, and everything else that is going on, that the only concern we're getting is extremely limited rises in pitches," he said.
"People who fail to appreciate that are taking their eyes off the ball."
Part of the reason for the change is because Worcester's council tax base - the money it expects to get from household rates - has been adjusted in the expectation an extra £80,000 will pour in.
Tim Phillips, honorary secretary of the Worcester & District Football League, said: "It's certainly better than 45 per cent in one go.
"While any increase is not welcome, we understand the pressure on the council from Government funding.
"It's really up to the FA and Government to sort out grass roots football."