(Link to Council Priorities: P1, P2, P3)
The Portfolio Holder for Leisure and Culture introduced the report and reminded the Cabinet that the Council had launched the new Parks Tennis Scheme (including booking and gate access system in seven venues) and introduced fees and charges across all twelve parks tennis venues in June 2017.
In light of the significant feedback from residents in the summer of 2017, a number of changes had been made to the Scheme, which included a new free tennis membership with free court access all year round for 2 hours a day every weekday at every venue.
The Portfolio Holder reported that whilst there had been some local opposition to the Scheme, overall memberships and pay & play access had been on or ahead of target for the first full year of operation. However, mindful of some of the continuing local concerns, a 6-week free promotional offer to coincide with the state school summer holiday from the end of July 2018 had been considered.
To administer the Scheme, and the necessary associated booking information, Members noted that the terms and conditions would be revised as follows:
· to allow a 6-week promotional offer, giving any registered user free use of courts;
· any user would need to register for a 6-week free pass in order to book (i.e. a 6-week free membership);
· this promotional offer would limit each user to a 2-hour max booking, per day (same as annual members), and could be booked up to 7 days in advance;
· it would seek to offer any existing annual member a 6-week extension of their membership; and
· there would be no change to private coaching providers.
The Cabinet noted that as well as the proposed free 6-week promotion, officers would continue to work to promote and increase opportunities for the local community alongside the Great British Tennis weekend.
As the proposed free 6-week promotion was a change from the original model, the Portfolio Holder advised that some of the forecasted income for this current financial year might not be achievable as 6-weeks pay and play income would now be foregone, and some annual members could decide not to renew their memberships which were due for renewal during the free period. It was also acknowledged that to amend the scheme for the 6-weeks and successfully promote it would incur costs to the Council of approximately £6,500.
The position with regard to the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) was also provided and Members were pleased to note that the LTA were comfortable that a 6-weeks free summer promotion was sustainable. However, the LTA did recognise that there would be a small financial risk at the peak of the tennis season given that this period of the summer was the greatest opportunity for when income could be generated though tennis and the park sites.
Whilst the LTA were keen to support the 6-weeks free promotion during the summer as a one off for this year, due to the long-term impact on sustainability and in light of the financial support provided by the LTA, it had been confirmed that the LTA would not be able to support this if it was to become part of an annual summer programme, of if the model was changed permanently from charged to free.
The Cabinet noted that a further review of the scheme would be presented to Members at the end of the summer period.
The Leader invited Councillor Mrs. C. Elmer, a Walton South Ward Councillor, to address the meeting. Having viewed the usage figures provided in the report, Councillor Mrs. Elmer asked the Portfolio Holder what his view was in respect of the policy for Parks Tennis given that the figures appeared to be higher than expected. The Portfolio Holder advised that sufficient data was not available to compare against previous usage and given the ongoing concerns raised by the public, he felt that the Scheme required further consideration.
Recommended: that the introduction of a 6-week summer promotion of free tennis at all twelve Council owned Parks Tennis venues be supported.