Tone down Midlothian leisure facilities price rises!

Alaster attends The Lasswade Centre three or four times a week.
Alaster attends The Lasswade Centre three or four times a week.

Midlothian Council has been criticised for a 96 per cent increase in the past year for the charge Tonezone members aged over 60 pay to use its gyms.

Retired Ministry of Defence worker and former Justice of the Peace Alaster Drummond (75) is angry that the Active Golden Years prices increased on December 1 by 66 per cent from £2.30 an hour to £3.90 an hour, adding that the figure has risen by 96 per cent since November last year.

The local authority said the recent rise was to make the cost “more realistic”, adding that its local leisure facilities had improved “beyond recognition” in recent years.

Mr Drummond, who regularly attends the gym at Lasswade Centre with his wife, believes this increase will stop retired people like himself keeping fit and lead to physical and mental health issues.

He said: “It seems to me that there are less older people in the gym now. There are a lot of people there who have told us that they can’t afford it anymore.

“It just blows my mind that the council has increased it by so much. All the time we are being told that we older people need to get out and do exercise and then they do something like this.

“When I retired I thought I’m going to have to do something to keep fit and busy. I worked for the Ministry of Defence for Ferranti and BAE Systems. I was also a JP – the longest serving in Scotland.

“I started using the gym before I retired, because I thought I’m going to have to start doing something, otherwise I will be a statistic, dead on the chair in front of the telly.”

Mr Drummond spoke of the benefits of using the council’s leisure facilities.

He said: “I have been using the council facilities now for about 10-15 years. It used to be a pound for as long as you wanted each session. I think it was a super thing for people that were about to retire or had retired.

“I feel nowadays people coming up for retiral will think I really can’t afford that and could use the money to go on holiday instead.

“It’s sad, especially when doctors and the NHS tell us we should be getting out there and keeping fit. My wife goes to the gym as well. She just started a year ago and does two or three classes a week.

“There was a guy in her class with type 2 diabetes, but he has now reversed it because of going to the gym.”

Mr Drummond contacted the local authority but never received a reply.

He said: “I wrote to the council a month or so ago. I got a computer generated reply from Steven Foster who is responsible for the Tonezone, to say he was on holiday and he would get back to me on his return but he never has.”

A council spokeswoman said: “Midlothian Council is under huge financial pressures and we’re having to make difficult decisions in every service area, including Sport & Leisure.

“Since they were introduced back in 2010, the Active Golden Years prices have been kept low and it was decided to bring them up to a more realistic level. The pay as you play charge of £2.30 per activity for those over the age of 60 years of age, therefore, has been replaced with the concessionary rate for each activity.

“We realise this is a large increase, as classes are now £3.90, however, we feel this still represents great value for money.

“Leisure facilities have also improved beyond recognition since 2010 with huge investment from the council. Lasswade, Loanhead and Newbattle Community Campus have vastly improved what was on offer and the extended opening times reflect what our customers want.”