Some good news this week as the Council has confirmed that there will be some financial support for local bowls clubs as they are ‘transferred to self-management’ (which is code for the Council ceasing to support them). The hard cash available is £10,000-£15,000 over each of the next two years, but there is also a positive recognition of the potential health benefits of bowls, especially at this time of pandemic where isolation is a problem and outdoor activities need to be encouraged.
Charlie and I got involved when members of the local Well Hall Vets Club and Tudor Bowls Club contacted us. The two clubs are based at the Well Hall Pleasaunce Bowling Green, making it the most well used of the four Council supported bowls rinks in the Borough. The initial decision to cut support for the bowls clubs had been taken in February 2020, but was communicated to them only in passing when they were chasing up green maintenance over the course of the first lockdown.
Charlie and I met with members of the bowls clubs and were in contact with their active representatives Ken and Bert to try and clarify the situation. Obviously a massive change like this needed a lot of planning and so getting some clarity on how the transfer would happen was vital. Following our meeting and questions to the Cabinet Member in Council from Spencer, Officers met with representatives of all the clubs on a number of occasions (one of which was attended by Charlie) and the way forward was agreed.
I think we had doubts about whether a positive outcome was possible so it is excellent news that the Council has confirmed the process of the transfer and some financial support. Given where we are now, an outdoor activity of older people seems vital and I think the Council will have to review its position to ensure that the clubs continue even after this initial subsidy has been spent (over the next two years). The Council recently allocated £800,000 to subsidise the delivery of leisure services by Better (previously Greenwich Leisure Limited) so, in my opinion, admitting that some funding may be needed to help support grassroots sport like bowls would be a sensible position at this stage.
Anyway, nice to have some good news – its not been a good year for a lot of that!
By the way if any members of the bowls clubs at Bostall Heath, Plumstead or Blackheath have any concerns about their specific situation, please do get in touch.