THE ONLY athletics club in West Dunbartonshire is facing price increases of 18 per cent to use council facilities, as well as these now being closed during holidays.

Clydesdale Harriers, the first athletics club in Scotland, was set up in 1885, and is based in Clydebank.

It runs at St Peter the Apostle High on Tuesday and Thursday nights, but when applying to West Dunbartonshire Council for the yearly let recently, the club noticed the massive hike to use the school’s track and floodlights. The cost to hire the gym hall also saw a 14 per cent increase for the club.

But more importantly, the athletics club has been informed that despite the price increase, the facilities won’t be available during any school holidays.

Phil Dolan, who joined the club as a youngster and has coached for more than 50 years, told the Post: “The rise in price stuck out like a sore thumb, that level of increase was just ridiculous. It’s difficult to pass that onto members and expect them to pay. Where are people going to get that extra money from?

“But the most important thing is the availability. We have always had the let of the school throughout the year, including the holidays. The only time we didn’t get the let was during Christmas and the new year.

“They are proposing to close the school for a fortnight in April, four days in May, then the whole of July and three quarters of August, as well as a week in October. On that basis, hiring the track wouldn’t be worth it. It just doesn’t make sense.

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“To build a facility at an enormous cost and then not utilise it effectively shows a lack of foresight. The benefits which Clydesdale Harriers provide to the community as a whole, far outweigh the cost of a school janitor two nights per week.

“If we were starting from scratch, and offered use of the facilities under these conditions, we would just say no. But we don’t have another venue that’s safe for the kids and adults within West Dunbartonshire.

“We don’t run the club as a business, we don’t make a profit. We just need to make sure we cover our costs but what we don’t want to do is make it too expensive.

“To build the track in the first instance was very expensive. The school only really use that track from April through until the end of May. The rest of the time, it lies more or less unused if we weren’t in it.”

Councillor Douglas McAllister lodged a motion that was discussed at a full council meeting on August 28.

It read: “This council is disappointed to learn that a community sports group that actively encourages participation by young people in to sports activities has been subjected to an 18 per cent increase in its letting charges.

“The club targets young people from the five mainstream secondary schools and it keeps its rates low to remove barriers for less well-off young people, so that they can fully participate in their activities.

“In the Year of Young People, it is indeed unfortunate that the club had seen its letting costs increase.

“Council calls on the chief executive to explore options and to bring a report to the next council meeting with a resolution to the situation.

“This could include setting up a support grant from reserves to help the organisation to obtain financial support to keep its club fees affordable. Alternatively it could be a supported grant from the Year of Young People legacy fund.

“Council also notes that the club had been informed that they would have their access to facilities cut back, essentially locking the community out of using the sports facilities.

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“The council report should also explore the rationale for this change and consider the implications of reversing this so that the club can continue to provide the service to local young people.”

A spokeswoman for the council said: “Fees were increased on April 1, 2019, following a review which highlighted that previous let charges were not sufficient to cover costs, and in many cases were significantly lower than neighbouring authorities’ prices.

“As a result of this, the hourly cost of facilities including all-weather pitches, sports halls and classrooms has been increased between £1.49 and £7.50, depending on the venue, time of let and use.”

“As before, a range of discount levels continue to be available for eligible groups.”