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Hire hike threat to voluntary groups

PUBLISHED: 10:40 10 June 2010 | UPDATED: 17:58 30 June 2010

Lifeline voluntary groups that provide entertainment, education and exercise for thousands of Norfolk children could be at risk from a big increase in the cost of hiring school and sports halls and swimming pools, it was claimed last night.

Lifeline voluntary groups that provide entertainment, education and exercise for thousands of Norfolk children could be at risk from a big increase in the cost of hiring school and sports halls and swimming pools, it was claimed last night.

Norfolk County Council is planning new charges for the use of school facilities that would see some costs doubling.

The move is designed to encourage more schools to open to community groups, with just 102 out of 435 currently allowing use of their facilities because the charges do not cover their costs.

But many of the 210 voluntary groups that use schools for clubs and sport are calling for a rethink amid fears that disadvantaged families will be priced out of activities and some organisations will close.

The new charging regime is likely to be agreed on Monday by the council's cabinet.

Twelve Scouting groups are among the organisations affected.

Last night, Norfolk county commissioner Richard Butler said: “It's just unbelievable. We've seen the systematic reduction in the council's support for youth work. Now they are attacking the voluntary sector.”

He said the groups could have planned for the increases if they had been given sufficient notice, adding: “This short timescale is hard to accept. It will hit the Beaver Scouts and Cub Scouts in particular.”

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