THE cost of swimming, exercise classes and hiring sports pitches in Southampton is to rocket by up to 25 per cent.

The inflation-busting hikes come after ruling Tories – who just last week boasted about how they had saved swimming pools and leisure centres in the savage budget cuts – brought private operators to run most of its sports venues.

Council officers agreed the hikes, which come in on April 1, behind closed doors.

Labour’s leisure spokesman councillor Derek Burke said: “I did say this would happen. When we set the rates we kept them low to make sure people got the best deal. They’ve just gone and put them up in one fell swoop. Some of the rises are massive and will stop people using these facilities.”

Active Nation, a charitable arm of leisure operator DC leisure, won a 15- year contract to manage six of the council’s leisure venues in return for saving the taxpayer more than £400,000 a year in running costs and ongoing repairs.

Under its price increases: à A family swim at the Quays, pictured, will go up by 20 per cent to £15 à Aqua aerobics classes at Bitterne Leisure Centre will increase by over 13 per cent to £5.20 à Pitch hire at Southampton Sports Centre will rise à Specialist rates for juniors using full size grass pitches will be scrapped, pushing prices up 17.5 per cent to £40 à Junior rounders pitch hire will go up 25 per cent to £15 à A two-day canoeing training at Woodmill Activity Centre will increase by 34 per cent to £150 à Southampton Diving Academy direct debit fees will go up à Mytime Active, which runs the city’s municipal golf course in a 12-year deal to save the council £350,000, will raise all season tickets prices between 9 and 15 per cent à At Oaklands Pool, which is still run by the council, a 60 minute family swim will go up 11 per cent to £11 among other price rises.

à DVD hire in libraries, book fines will also go up à The cost of hiring the art gallery as a venue will rise by up to 10 per cent.

Council leisure boss councillor John Hannides said the rises were part of a regular annual review and a minority of increases were in line with inflation or above where “it was felt existing pricing structure was below market rates.”

He added the rises were “consistent”

with a promise to boost use of sports venues by up to 15 per cent over five years.

Active Nation contract manager Mark Learnihan admitted there were a few prices that stood out but on the whole they had gone up by an average of four to five per cent to reflect market rates after a “competitor analysis” of venues such as Romsey Rapids and Fleming Park.

He added there would be no rise in gym membership fees, a separate discount scheme for residents was planned for later in the year and he pledged no further rises for a year.

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