South East Wales

Torfaen bowlers' green maintenance reprieve

Torfaen council has suspended a decision on cuts to the maintenance of seven bowling greens in the county.

The Eastern Valley Bowls Association said cuts would jeopardise the sport's future in the area as they did not have the money or ability to do the work.

The authority had planned to vote on the withdrawal of £228,000 in funding on 28 February.

But it says savings have been found elsewhere and council staff will look after the greens at least until 2013.

Bob Price, secretary of the Eastern Valley Bowls Association (EVBA), said he was awaiting confirmation that the council had changed its mind but gave the news a cautious welcome.

"It is a relief, but in 12 months are we still going to go down this road again?" he asked.

Mr Price said his main concern was that bowling was enjoyed by older people who may not be able to maintain the greens themselves.

"On the physical side of it, there's over four tonnes of topsoil which needs to be laid on each green, and repeatedly rolled and seeded," he said.

"Then on the technical side, you need to be able to spot pests and disease, and treat them accordingly. We just don't have the strength, expertise or money to do it ourselves."

Mr Price accused the council of "fudging" the amount spent on maintaining the greens, which it said worked out at almost £1,000 per user.

"That figure includes the seven staff - by far the biggest element of the cost," he said.

"We've been told that those staff are going to be redeployed elsewhere, so they're not saving on their wages at all.

"Maintaining bowling greens is far from a straightforward business, especially when our average membership is well over 70 years old."

Jeff Jones, a local government consultant and former head of Bridgend council, said it was "tragic" for those who relied on the bowling greens in their retirement.

But he said the money simply was not available to spend on such leisure facilities.

'Ridiculous amount'

"It's exactly what I'd be doing if I was still in local government," he said.

"It's already happening in most, if not all, local authorities around Wales and we haven't seen the half of it yet.

"Leisure is not a protected service and as much as I feel for the bowlers, £1,000 per player is a ridiculous amount to spend on any council service, especially when you've got schools, social services, housing, and refuse and environment facilities which the authorities have to maintain by law."

Torfaen council has previously tried to make savings in other areas of its spending on leisure services.

In July, ski enthusiasts agreed to take over the running of the Pontypool ski slope in order to keep it open.

And in October, the authority revealed it was considering setting up a non-profit distributing organisation to take over the running of its leisure services, claiming the move could save £240,000 a year over five years.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites