Lewisham Community Sport asked to pay for Hilly Fields access

What better way to secure an Olympic legacy for Lewisham than to start charging community sports organisers to use Hilly Fields?

The South London Press reports that Glendale, the Council's park management contractors, have asked Lewisham Community Sports, who run paid-for courses for kids in Hilly Fields, to pay £50 per week for use of the park.

We understand that Glendale has to save money and that the user-pays principle will have a bigger role to play in local service provision going forward, but this move is an ill-conceived distortion of that principle. Lewisham Community Sports are not the end users of the park, the kids are, and the point of their activities is to help children get in to sport, to improve their fitness and combat obesity, which are supposed to be key priorities for both the Council and the country.

For a not-for-profit groups, such costs can be prohibitive. If we want kids in Lewisham to get in to sport, and the benefits we bring, we should ideally be subsidising them, not charging them.

The revenue this could raise is minimal, the social costs of increasing costs for community sport projects are potentially huge.

42 comments:

Tamsin said...

Why do Glendale need to save money? I thought they had the contract with the council sewn up for at least five years to come.

Brockley Nick said...

According to the report, they've had their budget cut.

whealie said...

You mis-read an unclear report in the paper. LCS does not provide sports for free but has had the use of the park for free. It charges parents.

LCS pays its staff and pays for its equipment. I imagine it pays Prendergast for the use of its sports facilities. This is just another overhead.

All commercial users of the Park are asked to pay. The council could choose to give LCS a grant. But if the council is to charge other commercial sports clubs then it has to charge them all.

max said...

What's the profit that Glendale sucks out of us?
Can't they get a cut of that instead of showing themselves as unfit for running public services?

max said...

Whealie, there is the small issue that public parks are there for the recreational use of the public and are paid for by taxation.

Glendale is in charge of mainteining them, it doesn't have sovraignty over them.

Brockley Nick said...

@Whealie - thanks for the important clarification, they are not free courses, in fact, I think I've shelled out for them before. The article has been amended.

They are low cost though and an important way to provide access to sport for young people.

What other commercial sports clubs pay to use Hilly Fields please?

Brockley Nick said...

@Max - yes, if they were putting undue wear and tear on the park, a supplement for maintenance would be justified but I doubt that's the case.

Lou Baker said...

Whealie is right. LCS charges parents - why can't it pass on this small extra cost?

In principle providing 'free' sport for kids is a great idea. The problem is that not all kids like all sports and not all sports can be free.

If a child goes swimming every day - they're getting several hundred pounds worth of 'free' sport every year. But the same people that advocate this as a wonderful idea would wince if a kids was given several hundred pounds worth of free horse riding lessons, or a skiing holiday or a bike.

Rather than making some sports free, subsidising others and providing no help for most I'd prefer to see all kids get vouchers to use in part (or full) payment for a sport or activity of their choice. Much less prescriptive, much more useful and much more likely to get kids involved in something they want to get involved in rather than in something they do because it's cheap.

Brockley Nick said...

@Lou - perhaps it can pass on the charges to parents, perhaps that will put off the parents of some of the poorest kids.

Do we think providing low-cost access to sport for local children is important? If yes, then find another way for Glendale to save money.

Brockley Dogging Society (Accounts Payable) said...

"What other commercial sports clubs pay to use Hilly Fields please?

The BDS maintains a long standing quid pro quo arrangement with local councillors. Infact, just the other day one of our members gave a Laboury MP a bung.

There is also a gagging order out at the moment which I can't go into details on but if you fancy one yourself please leave a postal order on top of the usual toilet or taped to the bottom of the northernmost swing.

BDS

Steve said...

I am a big fan of Simon and Josh and the organisation they have set up. Anything that limits the opportunity for kids to play sport is bad, however I’m not sure this article explains the background. LCS does charge a daily rate for kids to come to the holiday club and £50 per week is a tiny proportion of the revenue that they generate over a week. What I think should definitely be explored is who is responsible for the maintenance of Hillyfields. Is it Glendale or is it now Enviroworks? The lower pitch is in a terrible state, the new cricket pitch has huge cracks in the surface which means that it is unplayable and communication from Glendale and Enviroworks is poor. Does anyone know?

Brockley Nick said...

@Lou - for example, jack the price of the fair on Hilly Fields up to the limit of what they will pay, by all means. Increase the rent paid by the farmers' market if you have to, however lovely its produce may be.

max said...

Enviroworks has ceased to be last year, all their business with the Council has been given to Glandale.

Brockley Nick said...

@Steve - let's say the charges add up to £1,000 a year for 20 weeks use. They can pass those costs on, which may put some parents off, or they can reduce their costs, which may put them off. That's the danger, however, I accept that it might be a small danger.

Beefy Botham said...

What is the score with the cricket pitch? They had some external funding I believe? Is it all unraveling now?

max said...

I believe that there was a dedicated budget for the Cricket pitch through Lewisham Council that when Enviroworks ceased activity was assigned to Glendale.

Anonymous said...

I to have sent my child to LCS and they have enjoyed it but this comes at a cost! After reading the article I was quite suprised as I assumed that as they would have paid for the space. They are not a 'free' sports camp and must make profit on these camps? Or am I mistaken???

Conways said...

I thought it would be the Council who would charge not Glendale.

Anonymous said...

Does this mean they can charge the people who use the Francis Drake Bowls green as well.

osh said...

the bowls aren't in the park are they? you can't just wander in.

The community sports guys just use the grass. They don't have access to any facilities like water, changing or anything like that.

max said...

Indeed, there is an argument for paying for services, but they aren't using any service that's targeted to them.
They just perform an activity in a public space.

I really think there is an important principle at stake here.

The park doesn't belong to Glendale.
Glendale only provides services in the parks, and if they provide some special service to a group they can then charge them. For the mainteinance of the grass they're already billing Lewisham Council.

whealie said...

Yes Lewisham charges - I just rang to ask. "All regular users of Lewisham parks for organised events are required to pay a minimal hire fee," it says. It specifically said it charges: "when part of the park cannot be used by other park users".

Simon and Josh are understandibly annoyed that they are suddenly being charged - it is clearly cut-related. But others have expressed surprise that they were not charged before.

On Facebook this story was headlined: "Disastrous move by Glendale could price community sports group out of Hilly Fields". I think that was over-egging it a bit, don't you?

We're talking about 50p a week per kid, possibly less. The world is not coming to an end by this eminently sensible move.

Let's get things in context.

mollhench said...

Are they going to start charging me to go for a jog?

Howson Road said...

They might as well stick oyster barriers at the entrances to parks...

Vicky said...

Hello,
This topic is running hight in the Fitness Industry at the moment! Due to the massive popularity of Bootcamps, BMF etc etc...From the forums I have read today across the UK different councils are charging different amounts.

I run "Fitness For Mummies" and hold fitness session in several of Glendale parks in Brockley / Lewisham. I have been paying a monthly fee for several years. just like I pay a hall hire fee when I use a church hall etc...(except for in the park i have no access to facilities water, toilets, heating! just dog poooo!)

I think there needs to be some sort of payment structure as I know of other instructors in the same park who are charged a different amount from me, thought we are doing the same thing!

LCS provides great facilities for kids in Lewisham, I hope this extra charge dose not effect them to much. I always thought Lewisham council gave them a grant so thought the would be exempt from this?

Glendale have made cuts as the park keepers have reduced working days. So maybe the fees can go towards the up keep of the parks.

I understand both sides of the story but at the end of the day we are a business and business have to pay rent. Nothing in life is FREE!

Vicky

Anonymous said...

Well perhaps that's the crux. Glendale expect a profit, residents expect a service. Freezing the council tax and introducing charges through the back door, I'm sure George osbourne would call that a stealth tax. 50p here and there, for school meals, school trips, bus fares. Some families budget down to the last penny and will feel it. I don't use the LCS but it dosnt sound like a middle class fitness bootcamp. I expect there are lots of parents on very average salaries that send their kids.

Pencil said...

Sorry Nick, but do you really think they're doing such a hugely great service? Personally, I think they need to buck up their ideas. For once I agree with Lou. In the case of LCS it smacks of cheap child care and not love of sport.

bumbags said...

I was reading about this in the paper today- that anyone using a public park as a business could be charged a fee. This would apply to dog-walkers, ice-cream men, fitness trainers etc. I'm self-employed and I have to pay for studio space, so I agree with Vicky.
I'm not sure how much this company earns per week, so can't comment on the amount being too high/low. But it is taking up public space to make money, so paying a little towards upkeep of the park seems fair.

max said...

There are some crucial differences between a park and a Church Hall and a professional studio space though.

A park is the only one among these that is also an open public space, the others are private.

A Church Hall hire pays for heating, electricity and admin, the studio space rent pays for the investment of the owner.

The park management instead does not incur in any expenditure whatsoever to allow activities to happen in the park and all expenses for the general upkeep of the park have already been covered by the contract with the Council.

Yes these people make money through an economic activities that takes place in the park, but it is one of those activities that parks are designed for. They make the correct use of the park and don't take anything away from other users.

And all the people involved have already contributed their little bit towards the upkeep with their taxes, and if the Council does not charge an extra to these activities there will be more of them altogether and they'll be more of them of the affordable kind, making life better and providing more opportunities for all, even for those that can't afford much.

Tamsin said...

When we put on events in the Telegraph Hill Parks in the Festival there was an application process and a fee charged by Glendale. But to give them their due they were flexible and helpful (e.g. we could lump three events over three different days together in one application and one charge). This is probably because the Festival is a voluntary non-commercial organisation and for two of the events was making no charge to participants. (The third had other costs and had to make a fairly minimal charge to cover these.)

This subject hit the 7.30 local news last night with Clapham Common starting to charge personal trainers who use the space. The conclusion, surely, is that parks etc. should be free to the general public in their individual capacity but if someone or some organisation is using the facilities for a money generating business it is reasonable to charge.

roy said...

Well if we accept things on that basis, we should apply that principle to the van hire company by the station.

Headhunter said...

It does seem ridiculous that a PRIVATE (profit making) company (Glendale) should suddenly be allowed to charge the PUBLIC for use of a PUBLIC park funded by PUBLIC money (tax)...

As mentioned, Glendale has already got an agreed contract which pays them for their services, through PUBLIC money (tax). Why do they now have the authority to levy charges on individual park users?

Tamsin said...

That's outsourcing and privatisation by stealth for you. (It is a bit distressing how increasingly radical I'm getting as I get older...)

Although I am in favour of Glendale or other park managers charging private businesses - whether boot-camp or kids' camp companies or individual personal trainers - for the use of the public spaces in their care. Especially if (one can always hope) these charges serve to either reduce the drain on public money or to improve the service provided rather than simply enrich shareholders and/or senior management.

Kevin Milburn said...

Nick, I largely disagreed with you re. Crofton Park Co-op, although I concede it can sometimes be a slight obstacle course, but on this one I'm in complete agreement. A profoundly short-sighted and ultimately costly decision.

Brockley Nick said...

Glad we are back on friendly terms. Now if only Whealie will forgive me my Facebook flamboyance, we will have peace in our time.

bumbags said...

@max- but they are taking up space and using it as business space. I also pay taxes, but am not conducting my business in the park. I could do. But where do you draw the line? And I do agree with Roy that by your argument the D&M people can park all over Brockley.
I do think the money raised should be used for maintaining the park/staffing/litter collection, and any savings should be passed on to the Council. So, lower taxes and people paying who are using the facility. But that's coz I'm an old Tory innit.

max said...

Not really, the parallel with the van hire is a paradox only if one ignores the differences between parking space (saturated) and park space (widely available).

If someone uses more than a standard share of 'parking' space then he's being anti-social and detracting from others, if someone makes great use of the park is making it safer and more worth its upkeep by adding social value.

I'm all for people paying for services they receive, but this is not such case.

I can agree that if someone makes a really substantial profit and uses a considerable portion of the park on a regular basis then he can be asked to give something towards the park, but I surely disagree with Glendale taking a cut and bumping its profits.

I'm also concerned that if this becomes the norm people may decide against running schemes because they may be economically unviable of just not worth the effort.

Monkeyboy said...

Bumbags, the LCS is a not-for-profit, it deliberately keeps costs low so that the community can benefit. Even low earners. It does not exist to maximise profit. Call it "the big society" I wonder what happened to that idea? Imagine a commercial artist sitting in the park sketching the view, charge him? For looking around?

It's not causing inconvenience or neusence liike D&M. Of course you could turn it around, if the council did charge D&M for using public parking spaces as their depot it would more than cover a low cost childrens play facility....... Actually why not charge for the playground.

QJ said...

@ Monkeyboy. £10 a day or £45 a week per child isn't cheap, and would certainly put these courses out of the reach of many low-income families.
It's a worthwhile thing to encourage sports, but if parents can afford these costs, they can afford an extra 50p.
I've just visited LCS website- it doesn't mention it's non-profit-making. While it may be one with good intentions, it is a service business, as are personal trainers/dog walkers.
And I'm not complaining about it (much), but I will mention that the tennis courts are not available to the public all day while courses for children are running in the holidays. I like to use them, so do many friends, and we can't. So the courses do impact on other users' enjoyment of the park.
I won't even start on D&M parking- yes, they could fund lots of things. And no, of course kids shouldn't pay to use the playground- Duh! BUT, if someone was charging parents to hold a drama workshop at the playground they should pay to do it.

max said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
max said...

As expected these charges are pricing out those on marginal income (link).

Brockley Nick said...

As predicted and very disappointing.

Latest Tweets

Brockley Central Label Cloud

Click one of the labels below to see all posts on that subject. The bigger the label, the more posts there are!