Peterborough MPs have joined the row over ice skating coaching costs at the Peterborough rink.
Figure skating lessons were stopped this week after coaches said Planet Ice, who run the Bretton rink, had put prices up so high they could not run the classes.
Today North West Cambridgeshire MP Shailesh Vara said: “I am very concerned about the changes made by Planet Ice. The increased fees will have a negative effect on Figure Skating in the area as we have a number of Figure Skaters set to compete at the British Championships later this year. This change in the rent will severely limit the chances of those hoping to compete at the event.
“Access to sporting facilities, particularly for the young, so that people can pursue their interests and maintain healthy lifestyles is important. In the case of Figure Skating this is also something of immense benefit to those with medical conditions such as Asperger’s syndrome or Crohn’s disease. This move by Planet Ice may well lead to a reduction in the number of people taking part in the sport and I very much hope that there will be a review of the rent increase.”
One coach said the rate had gone from £77 per week to £300 per week.
Mr Vara has written to Mike Petrouis, Managing Director of Planet Ice in Peterborough and Jennie Price, Chief Executive of Sport England, concerning the fee increase and asked her if there is any way in which Sport England can help local skaters.
Earlier this week Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson also threw his support behind a campaign to help skaters and their coaches.
He said: “It seems to be a decision taken by Planet Ice across the UK to increase the rental fees charged to coaches and this will mean that fewer coaches will be available at the ice rink to train new and existing skaters, if it’s not commercially viable for them.
“I am happy to take the matter up directly with Planet Ice and perhaps ask them to review their business decision and in any event, I’ll be writing to Sport England seeking their intervention and support.
In the meantime, if constituents want to write to me on the matter, I’ll happily take up their cause too.”
A protest is due to be held at the Planet Ice Rink on Bretton Way tomorrow (Saturday) at 10am.
A spokesman for Planet Ice said they had not reviewed the charges for some time. He said: “In the past we have operated an ‘in kind’ system whereby the charity charges coaches a subsidised rental in exchange for ‘in kind’ services such as teaching our Skate Excellence ‘Learn to’ programme, Learn to Skate in 5 days initiative, coaching for birthday party packages, and in some cases galas including our Christmas performances.
“After reviewing our current system we have come to the conclusion that changes needed to be made.
“The system has exposed coaches to issues relating to tax and employment law, especially in cases where they have failed to declare the “in-kind” benefits to HMRC.
“Additionally it has meant that we have had to utilise all coaches who rent ice from the organisation in the delivery of our educational products, regardless of whether the coach wanted to teach our products or was the best person to do so.”