New members could soften costs blow

An INCREASE in the membership of bowling clubs in the Montrose area would help to cushion the financial blow of changes to leasing and maintenance arrangements, a local councillor has said.

At last week’s Ferryden Community Council meeting members expressed fears for the future of the Inch Bowling Club, which is within its area, due to standardisation of arrangements between Angus clubs and the local authority.

A report highlighting the variations in agreements between the clubs and the local authority, was put to the corporate services committee recently. These ranged from formal leases with clubs meeting their own running costs, to minutes of agreement with no rental paid and clubs without even informal arrangements which are subsidised by the council, up to £15,000 per year in some cases.

Councillors felt there should be standardised arrangements across the county although some feared clubs could lose members and be forced to close if they were forced to put up fees to meet additional costs.

Councillor Bill Duff said the current situation is a “complete dog’s breakfast” and needs to be sorted out.

He said: “Things would be standardised so that all the clubs were dealt with in the same way and what they are charged would be fair. For instance, if they have a bowling green and a bar they will pay a certain amount, if they only have a green they will pay less. We’ll negotiate with the clubs and it would be phased in stages over two or three years to allow them to get their financial affairs in order.”

Chairman Gordon Brown pointed out that some of the clubs would have problems raising funds because of the age and number of members.

He said: “For them to give more in club fees would be difficult. On the activity side, they all seem to be quite active and fit people who are playing bowls and it seems to keep them that way. It would be a real shame to see them closing due to funding issues.”

Councillor David May also said he had similar fears but pointed out the financial burden could be relieved if additional members could be recruited.

He said: “I think the Inch is the club most affected in this area as it has a relatively small membership of about 24 or 25. This could maybe be a chance for them to recruit more members, perhaps through an open doors day and if they had 40 to 50 members then they wouldn’t be hit as badly. The issue is for them to engage with the council to see where costs can be reduced and where funds can be raised.

“One of the big costs, which can be quite substantial, is plants in the bowling club areas so maybe they could be reduced, either that or maybe some of the members could take them over themselves rather than the council providing them, and maybe the grass could be cut less often.”

Mr Brown said there appear to be “must haves” needed to keep the clubs running, and “nice to haves” which could be reconsidered to reduce maintenance but member David Wilson urged the council to take care where cuts are made.

He said: “We have to be very careful to ensure we’re permitting the thing that are doing good in the community and the bowling clubs are. It’s really important for us to support that aspect of community life.”