Council defends sports price rise

​Caistor Town Council has defended a rise in charges for sports clubs using the Brigg Road ground.
The Brigg Road ground in Caistor                              Image: Dianne TuckettThe Brigg Road ground in Caistor                              Image: Dianne Tuckett
The Brigg Road ground in Caistor Image: Dianne Tuckett

For decades, clubs using the facility have been charged a ‘peppercorn rent’, currently £1 per week, but, with costs rising across the board, councillors agreed they needed to show due diligence and look at the charges.

A working group was set up and benchmarking done with similar facilities in the area.

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Speaking on behalf of the town council, chairman Coun Jon Wright said: “Caistor Town Council can’t keep taking on all costs, things have to be paid for somehow – and that is through the precept.

The club house at the Brigg Road groundThe club house at the Brigg Road ground
The club house at the Brigg Road ground

"The working group went out and looked at what other grounds charge and the initial proposal for the annual licence was well within the norm and was agreed unanimously by Caistor councillors. Following some discussion with the clubs concerned, this amount was reduced to £700 for the football club and £900 for cricket club. On paper this still looks like a massive increase, but it is still good value and it has been agreed this can be paid on a monthly basis to help with cash flow, rather than expecting it all at once.”

At the April meeting of the town council, representatives from both the football and cricket clubs were in attendance, with football secretary Mark Reece acting as spokesman during the public session.

He said the clubs wanted to “kickstart a process of consideration and reconciliation in regards to the proposed sports licences” and also asked for greater transparency on how the fees had been arrived at.

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​Mr Reece said: “Some of the emotions and opinions expressed recently, particularly those on social media are heartfelt, but there has been too much misinformation.

"We recognise the responsibility of the council to reassess and benchmark licences, to ensure all residents in Caistor are getting value for money.

"We suggest, however, that the timescale given to the working group for the assessment, presentation to clubs and any negotiation has been too limited and has been a mitigating factor in divisions as the deadline of March 31 approached.

“We also appreciate that the historical licence fee, whilst recognising our important volunteer-led provision, can’t possibly cover the cost to the council of maintaining the full recreational area and buildings. We do however, contribute much to this maintenance at considerable cost to ourselves, such as the recent chafer bug issue.”

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Mr Reece continued: “We have been asking for transparency from the council working group as regards to benchmarking and annual costs fed into the proposed fees.

“We are minded that with greater understanding we may well fully appreciate the council’s position. This lack of transparency has unfortunately been a factor in the lack of understanding of each other’s position, exacerbated by some uninformed comments on social media.”

Coun Wright gave a brief oversight of running costs associated with the Brigg Road site, which amount to around £15,000 each year. This includes utility bills, CCTV coverage and insurance foritems such as the score hut.

The council has also recently paid out £6,000 for a new boiler in the club house. Ongoing rodent control also costs the council £1,600 each year.

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Coun Wright added: “There have also recently been costs for fencing, which have been kept to a minimum for just materials as some of our councillors have given up their time freely to do the work themselves.

"People are quick to snipe and pass comment without looking at the whole picture. We appreciate this is a difficult situation and that some people aren’t happy, but there have also been some people saying that they understand the rise and still think it is good value for the facilities we have when compared to other grounds.

"On a personal level, I am a great advocate for Caistor Cricket Club, having played for them for around 40 years and have supported them through my company too, as have many other local businesses. I believe we have one of the best grounds in the county.”

At the April meeting of Caistor Town Council, during closed session, councillors further discussed the licence situation and the comments made during the public session.

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Town Clerk, Michelle Moss, confirmed feedback would be given to officials from the football and cricket clubs.

Meanwhile, Coun Wright countered comments made, primarily, on social media, that councillors are not supporting local sport.

He said: “Caistor Town Council has and continues to support local clubs.

"One of my first jobs at Caistor council was to award £1,000 to the football club. Just this month, we have given grants of £1,000 to Caistor Crusaders and £500 to Caistor Women’s Cricket.

"As a town, we should be proud of the sports on offer and give them support.”

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