Glimmer of hope for Southend bowls clubs

Under-threat bowls clubs in Southend have been thrown a lifeline by council bosses.

Before May’s elections a review of funding given to the city’s bowls clubs was ordered as the council sought to tighten it’s belt.

Clubs across the city – attended by hundreds of residents, many of them elderly – faced having to find thousands of pounds to upkeep their greens.

Tory Derek Jarvis, who became councillor responsible for arts, culture, heritage and leisure following May’s election: said; “There was a study into bowls clubs. I understand the output from that has never been looked at properly by the council but my view about it is we will not be supporting reducing any activity like that which leads towards, particularly older people, being active and bending.

“It’s not come in front of me yet. I have asked what happened to the review and I haven’t had a response yet.

“We have no plans to do this. If it’s already built in the budget I need to find out where it is and make sure that item is addressed.”

The review included investigating whether clubs with fewer members could amalgamate with more popular ones.

The previous council said the remaining greens would have to become self-managed within three years and there would be “no subsidy for the discretionary service”.

But with each club member having to pay £138 for a season ticket they would be hard-pressed to find more.

Lib Dem councillor Carole Mulroney, who was councillor responsible for leisure before the election, said clubs were looking at other ways to produce funding by hosting other activities such as pétanque

The 70-year-old Shoebury Park Bowls Club would have had to find £14,000 a year to survive the cut in funding.

Club captain Sue Marchant said the clubs would push for official confirmation the threat had been lifted before commenting fully.

She said: “The Southend Parks Bowls Circle speaks for all the bowls clubs based in Southend Parks.

“Southend Council has been in discussion with the Parks Circle for time about their future funding plans. We look forward to hearing from the council.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter