Bowls clubs accuse Merton Council of plotting 'tax on elderly'
"Ageist” plans to withdraw support for Merton’s bowls clubs have been met by fierce resistance from club members, who claim the elderly will have even less opportunity to exercise and socialise.
Merton Council is holding talks with the eight clubs on how they can become “more financially sustainable” and insists it wants the sport to thrive.
But after a meeting held at the Civic Centre in January, club members were left with the impression the council was more interested in saving money than saving bowls.
Dennis Roll, a committee member of Merton Park bowls club, said they were told by Doug Napier, the head of parks, and Councillor Andrew Judge, the cabinet member overseeing Mr Napier’s department, Merton wanted clubs to pay for their own maintenance in future.
Mr Roll said: “It is a tax on the elderly. We all remember how the council wanted to tax the little leagues, but changed its mind after everyone was complaining about it.
“I applauded the council when it saw sense in the end, but surely the same compassion needs to apply to us, otherwise it is double standards and smacks of ageism.
He explained the greens, which are used in the summer months of May to September, require a specialist service too costly for each club to pay for individually.
And Brian Elsdon, from Raynes Park bowls club, added: "Elderly people would lose a very important facility if it becomes too expensive to maintain the greens.
"We might be looking at additional costs of £4,000 a year."
Coun Judge, refused to answer questions about what was being proposed and how much money it would save the council.
In a written response, he said: "We want bowling to thrive in Merton and in order to do this the clubs need to look at how they can become more financially sustainable so that people in Merton can enjoy this much loved activity for years to come.
“While we have not at present asked clubs to cover costs of maintenance, we have started consulting with clubs on ways to ensure they are viable over the longer term.
“We will continue to work closely with all of them over the next two years to look at a range of ideas to decide the best way to do this, including increasing membership to generate more participation in bowling."