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Council leisure centre price hikes slammed

JANUARY is the month when most of us try to shed a few pounds but doing just that will also cost a few extra euro.

Dubliners face a raft of increases at local authority leisure centres due to changes in tax rules.

Prices at community gyms, swimming pools and fitness centres which are run and owned by local authorities are expected to be hiked as they will charge VAT from January -- which could mean as much as a 3.5pc increase in charges.

The top-of-the-range facilities have been growing in popularity since the onset of the recession.

Local authority facilities have managed to keep annual membership rates low and there are also reasonably priced pay-as-you-use programmes available.

Annual subscription rates currently range from €299 to €450 and gym sessions average at €6.60. However, the costs are set to rise now that councils are obliged to charge VAT, following on from a European Court of Justice ruling.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan gave the green light to implement the change under a Commence Order.

But councillors are urging for the increase to be absorbed by the council's budget.

Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Councillor Tom Murphy said that the local authorities must find a way to ensure fitness facilities remain reasonably priced for all the population for the sake of activity levels.

South Dublin County Council said that there have been no changes to the cost so far. Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, Dublin City Council and Fingal County Council did not respond to queries at the time of going to print.