Outsourcing of parks management means charges to play on local courts
Tennis fans in Wimbledon who fancy playing this summer will now have to pay to play on council-run courts.
Charges now apply at John Innes Park, Wimbledon Park, Joseph Hood Rec and Dundonald Rec.
Some are concerned that this will price residents out of using their local tennis courts.
The pay and play model is operated at most tennis courts in Merton, which are managed by contractors Ideverde.
A petition has also been launched calling for the improvement of the council tennis courts in Cottenham Park, where it is said four out of five of them are unusable.
Councillor Carl Quilliam, deputy leader of the Merton Liberal Democrats said: “Our local parks and sports facilities are cherished by our communities but Merton Labour’s decision to bring in charges without consultation or consideration will end up pricing people out.
“This is sadly symptomatic of a council which too often treats Wimbledon residents as a cash cow.”
The Lib Dems have now said they will lead a campaign to reverse the charges.
New Lib Dem Councillor Jenifer Gould (pictured above at Joseph Hood Rec) said: “Wimbledon is the home of tennis but it will never be home to a future Wimbledon champion if the council prices local people out.”
But cabinet member for commerce, leisure and culture has blamed the austerity programme introduced by a coalition government in 2010.
Councillor Caroline Cooper-Marbiah said: “As a result of the austerity measures that were introduced under the Liberal Democrats we have had no choice but to make savings or increase targets, in this case outsourcing parks management.
“We’ve done wonders to protect services and make Merton a great place for families, and are very proud of our parks and open spaces, so we’re very sad that the Lib Dems’ and Conservatives’ cuts are costing local residents more, and we call on the government to properly fund councils.
“Before Ms Gould joined the Lib Dems just before this by-election she strongly opposed Lib Dem cuts like these, and we call on her to change her mind again, reject Lib Dem-supported austerity and back this Labour council.”
The cost to play tennis for one hour on a Merton tennis court is £8 or £6.20 for concessions.
There are higher prices at Wimbledon Park of £10.50 for adults or £9 during the weekdays. With concessions paying £8 up to 5pm on weekdays.
In Cottenham Park, the tennis courts are reported to have broken nets, worn out markings and tree roots showing through the surface.
A petition calling for Merton to take action to improve matters started by resident Andy Taylor has nearly 100 signatures. He said: "Please show your support for improving this facility in a well-used local park. It’s scandalous that a park in Wimbledon – the home of international tennis – has its tennis courts neglected in this way".
June 21, 2019