Ticket prices set to be increased for family days out in Welwyn Hatfield
Deborah Price, local democracy reporter
- Credit: Alan Davies
Family days out could soon become more expensive in Welwyn Hatfield as part of budget plans being drawn up by the borough council.
Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council controls the fees at a range of leisure outlets, including the Garden City Cinema, Roller City and Soft Play City, and a wider range of activities - such as carpet bowls, keep fit, bridge and line dancing - are offered at numerous venues across the borough.
On Tuesday, January 5 members of the council's cabinet were presented with budget proposals for 2021/2022, and those proposals revealed plans to increase the charges for many of these activities by as much as 28 per cent from April.
The report points to decreasing grants from central government and increasing demand for council services – as well as “unprecedented uncertainty in local government funding”.
It also says that the council aims to become more self-sufficient – less reliant on government grants and more on local income streams and taxation.
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According to the budget proposals, the majority of fees and charges set by the council - which include garage rents, cemetery fees, dog warden fees and some waste collection services - would rise by between two and three per cent, with some staying the same.
However it's the fees for a number of leisure venues which have been earmarked for the greatest percentage increases.
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Commenting on the proposals, a spokesman for Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council said: “We continue to face really tough financial choices. Balancing our budget, while delivering vital services, is becoming increasingly difficult.
“Our top priority is to protect the frontline services residents rely on most, which we have achieved for 2021/22 despite the added pressure of Covid-19 on our finances.
“Fees and charges are reviewed every year. This is to make sure they reflect the rising cost of providing services whilst also ensuring value for money for our residents.
“For some non-statutory services such as leisure, we aim to recover the cost of providing these services from the users.
“However, in recognition of the value of leisure services for our communities, we endeavour to keep prices as low as possible, with many charges still below market levels.”
Currently admission to Soft Play City costs £3.85 for those aged one to three, £5.45 for under-nines and £3.60 for accompanying adults - but if the budget proposals are approved those prices would increase to £4.95, £6.95 and £4.50.
Meanwhile admission to Roller City would increase from £6.40 to £7.50. And the charge for spectators would go up from £3.60 to £5.
And although full price weekday admission to Garden City Cinema would stay the same at £8.20, those wanting a weekend showing would see the cost increase from £9.20 to £9.25.
But the biggest increase at the cinema is for ‘family films’ – with tickets increasing from £4 to £5 through the week – and £5 to £6 at weekends.
According to the report to the cabinet research has already suggested that charges at Campus West are below market rates – with scope for increases.
Meanwhile charges for activities – including carpet bowls, table tennis, keep fit, bridge and Scrabble and line dancing – would increase by 25 per cent, from £5.60 to £7.
Those sessions are currently offered at Campus West, Vineyard Barn, Hazel Grove and Panshanger.
The budget proposals will be considered by a meeting of the overview and scrutiny committee on January 13 – with any amendments due to be considered at a meeting of cabinet on January 19.
The proposals – with any amendments – will them be recommended for approval to a meeting of the full council on February 1.
According to budget proposals, the element of the council tax for an average Band D property levied by Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council would increase by 1.97 per cent – which is £4.23 a year.
That means – if the proposals are approved by the council in February – the borough council element of the bill for a Band D property would increase to £219.15.
Ultimately council tax bills received by residents will be much higher – including additional levies set by the county council and the police commissioner, as well as – in some areas – parish councils too.