Clubs face financial threat

BOWLING clubs in the Montrose area could be facing an uncertain future after councillors agreed to review leasing and financial arrangements of council-owned greens in the county.

The authority is considering standardising its agreements with bowling clubs after the variety of individual situations regarding rental and maintenance across Angus was highlighted in a recent report.

It also raised the cases of the Hillside, Inch and Melville clubs which have no formal agreements with Angus Council and could be faced with levying higher fees from ageing memberships to meet additional costs.

While many clubs pay thousands of pounds in rent and are responsible for their running costs, others are subsidised to a county-wide total of £15,000 per year, which breaks down to around £600 per member. At last week’s corporate services committee meeting, some councillors felt that the authority is no longer in an position to continue the same level of support.

But Montrose member David May this week said if clubs are forced to raise their fees to meet additional financial demands, membership may be lost with a negative impact on the lives of the community’s older people.

In his report, corporate services director Eric Lowson said: “It is proposed that the occupation of council bowling greens be standardised to ensure that within three to four years all tenants who have had access to bowling land and buildings are treated equally. A number of the bowling clubs will face higher charges, albeit it is proposed to apply a three-year phasing-in period.”

One member of Hillside Bowling Club, who asked not to be named, said it already meets some of its own maintenance costs and, a few years ago, installed a £10,000 irrigation system as its own cost. He also said that while one member is keen to take on the green’s maintenance, the council has objected due to insurance concerns.

The club, which currently has 25 members, has also tried to recruit some new blood but has so far had little success.

He said: “We know we’re costing the council and we do our best, but if push comes to shove we’ll have to raise money. We’re awaiting confirmation from the council and will then call a meeting to decide what to do.”

Mr May said the move would hit senior citizens who are already under financial pressure.

He said: “I raised several issues, one of which was the ability of the clubs to pay. Some, like the Hope Paton, pay for their own maintenance while others pay for their own electricity etc. I understand the reasoning behind standardisation but there’s huge concern as some have relatively small memberships.

“In all clubs a large proportion are pensioners on the basic state pension and if they can’t continue then they’ll be losing what for many is an important social occasion, not just for those playing but for a significant number who go along to watch.”