Fury erupts over council charges

Lyn Fitzimons worries her ballet School will be forced to pull out of West Lothian
Lyn Fitzimons worries her ballet School will be forced to pull out of West Lothian

A Linlithgow dance school has warned that increased hire charges being imposed by West Lothian Council will see children suffer as she pulls out of the area.

Lyn Fitzsimons, principal of The Ballet Schools, has been running dance school classes for more than 10 years in West Lothian, using council owned school halls.

In June this year she received notification that the charges for hiring the venues would increase by 100 per cent, pushing her annual rental bill from £16,000 to more than £32,000.

Lyn said: “It would have been nice to have received some notice from the council, especially after being a valued service account customer for so long.

“With these increased charges it is now no longer financially viable for us to continue providing classes in Linlithgow.”

Parent, Nina Bolton, whose daughter attended the classes said: “I have contacted Fiona Hyslop over this and the council. It worries me that out-of-school activities may be forced out of West Lothian.”

Mum, Deborah Kingon-Rouse, whose six-year-old daughter also attends said: “I am shocked by West Lothian Council’s decision to double the cost of room lets to local clubs. The benefits children gain from attending these physical activities cannot be underestimated.

“In addition to the physical exercise, flexibility, and strength it encourages - the children develop socially and become more confident as a result.”

Lyn has claimed that an increase of this magnitude is completely unrealistic, and goes against the council’s ethos of supporting projects providing a healthier lifestyle for children and getting them away from computers and televisions.

A spokesman for West Lothian Council said: “We have faced a £14million budget shortfall over the last two years, with a £30.4 million shortfall predicted over the next three years.

“We are looking at ways to increase our revenues as an alternative to reducing or closing valued community facilities, with 67 per cent of respondents in our 2012 Delivering Better Outcomes consultation in favour of this option.

“We carried out a comprehensive review of all discretionary fees and charges, including hire of schools and community halls. We had the lowest income from charges of any Scottish council, and these increases bring us into line with other councils.

“This is a commercial letting arrangement, with council lets still offering good value for money when compared with commercial lets.”

Lyn said: “ The facts are, they are not in line with other Councils, Falkirk weekday evening use is £10 for two hours and weekend use is £20.60 for one hour.

“Clackmannanshire charge a flat rate of £15.10 per hour for commercial use.West Lothian charge me between £33 t0 £66 per hour.

“So it’s obvious that West Lothian are simply using private lets to make money, but at kids expense.”