A REVIEW of sporting facilities across West Dunbartonshire is to be carried out by council bosses after a steep increase in the cost of hiring pitches.

West Dunbartonshire Council's Labour administration imposed a 10 per cent rise in the cost of hiring sports facilities as part of a package of budget proposals agreed earlier this month in a bid to close a £21 million black hole in the authority's finances.

Labour council leader Martin Rooney says the review is aimed at expanding choice for youth sports teams, helping them reduce costs and increasing access to sporting facilities to promote uptake.

The Labour administration has called for a report on sports pitch usage and charges, in a bid to help make them more accessible to young people and youth clubs.

Councillor Rooney said the decision to increase hire charges was the result of underfunding by the Scottish Government and an already yawning budget gap inherited from the previous SNP-led council.

He said: “We have not tried to sugar-coat the disastrous position SNP politicians left our council’s finances in, or the fact that we have been left to clear up the mess they made and in doing so, we are likely to be blamed for the SNP’s failings.

“We don’t really have that many options open to us - we either reduce costs, raise revenue, or both.

"One of our early actions was to increase sales, fees and charges by 10 per cent in December. Normally they would go up by around 4 per cent but we had to find money to close the budget gap.

“Despite closing the gap by increasing revenue and reducing costs, the council is still facing at least a £9.5m shortfall next year.“

The review will identify the type, current usage and hire price of all sports pitches within West Dunbartonshire.

Once the facts are compiled, the authority hopes to make a comparison between their own charging structure and that of other councils.

It is expected that the report would identify potential options for uptake and the associated cost of those options to the council.

There is significant demand for the use of sports pitches in West Dunbartonshire, with adult teams block booking pitches.

The authority feels that is unlikely that demand will reduce as a result of the 10 per cent increase, however, the Labour Administration wants to maximise use of all sporting facilities and pitches and to promote active participation in sport.

The focus will now switch to expanding choice for youth teams and reducing costs, as well as making access to sports facilities much easier.

The review and report will inform the council’s charging structure and will help to identify an appropriate discounted rate for youth teams.

The authority's deputy leader, Councillor Michelle McGinty, said: “We know that community groups are struggling with inflationary price increases and that is why we are doing our very best to mitigate against this.

“As part of mitigation, we created an earmarked community wellbeing fund to support community groups with up to £2,000 for hall and facility hire.

“We have also asked for a report on how we can make best use of our sports facilities in West Dunbartonshire, to promote and encourage uptake and sports and physical activity by our young people.

“I want to see local children getting access to sports facilities across the whole council area and that will mean looking at how we can make them more affordable to clubs."

The Scottish Government have been approached for comment.