Council is skating on thin ice with grant to rink

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This newspaper could never be accused of failing to support community initiatives. Facilities such as leisure centres or the pub on your street corner have our backing provided they are well-run.

But in these days of austerity eyebrows have quite rightly been raised over Gosport Borough Council’s proposal to hand over £100,000 for the refurbishment of the town’s ice rink.

That’s £100,000 of Gosport taxpayers’ money to help reclad the walls and roof of Planet Ice in Forest Way.

And this is a privately-owned attraction, not one run by the authority even though the council owns the land and building.

If the council approves the grant the improved building will doubtless look less out of place alongside the new Gosport Leisure Centre and hotel which will be built on the site.

But this is not a voluntary body or charity, but a private company and people are entitled to question the move.

One of them, Councillor Dennis Wright, the leader of the Labour opposition, is right when he says: ‘Lots of voluntary organisations have had to suffer because of the financial and economic situation where we’re no longer giving grants. I do question whether we should be giving donations to private companies.’

Yes, the Gosport rink is the only one in the wider Portsmouth area. But are there enough skaters to justify a £100,000 grant from dwindling council coffers?

Doubtless there are many Gosport community groups who would love just a fifth of this amount to help them survive.

Conservative council leader Mark Hook believes upgrading the ice rink, so it is not left in the shadow of that new leisure centre and hotel, will be of greater benefit to the borough and, perhaps, draw greater numbers of skaters.

He says: ‘If you’re offering an excellent leisure experience then it’s important that all the facilities you have there are of a high standard.’

We believe the council is skating on thin ice with this proposal and should explain it to residents quickly.