Better news from Yeovil

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Yeovil town council steps up with tax increase to safeguard beloved recreation ground amidst Somerset’s budget cuts

There is some good news from Yeovil on the future of the town’s valued and much-used recreation ground, which was threatened with closure as part of Somerset Council’s draconian cuts – part of a nationwide picture of underfunded rural councils facing financial melt-down.
Yeovil Town Council, which has unanimously decided to increase Council Tax for the upcoming fiscal year, agreed budget plans aimed at preserving the athletics arena. This move is part of a strategy to allocate resources for the upkeep and operational expenses associated with Yeovil Recreation Centre.
Andy Kendall, the town council Liberal Democrat leader, says it is the first step towards saving the facilities, but there are still months of negotiations ahead with Somerset Council.
Somerset Council currently faces a £100 million funding deficit and consequently has some hard choices to make – but the threat to Yeovil’s important leisure facility inspired a huge campaign by users, including a petition which has already attracted more than 14,000 signatures.
Geoff Cole, chairman of Yeovil Olympiads Athletics Club (AC), says: ‘The athletics arena is used by the Yeovil Olympiads AC, Dorchester AC, Yeovil Town Road Running Club and Running for Time Running club. In addition to those clubs, more than a dozen local schools and colleges used the athletics track in 2023, from all over South Somerset and North Dorset. There is no other facility like it locally.’
Closing the arena could mean the end of schools and club competitions, ‘and Somerset County Athletics Championships could not be held in Somerset,’ he said.
There is similar strong support from other users, including Jo Stephenson of Yeovil and Sherborne Hockey Club. The construction of the artificial pitch in 2013 was a collaborative venture between South Somerset District Council, the Hockey Club and England Hockey, and the club continues to invest in the facility. It has just made a contribution of £10,000 towards the provision of equipment so the café can provide players with meals and bring more income to the Rec. She said it would be ‘devastating’ if the facilities the club had worked hard to establish were lost – ‘Once gone they will be gone for good,’ she warned. ‘It would be another nail in the coffin of this area of South Somerset, which is recognised as one of the most deprived areas in the South West.’
A spokesperson for Somerset Council said the council both owns and operates Yeovil Recreation Ground: ‘Therefore, it is not “funded” as such, in the way that we grant-fund some other leisure centres, which are operated on a contractor basis. The annual operating cost for Yeovil Recreation Ground is c£190,000 net.’

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