At the January meeting of the Royal Borough of Greenwich Council, Eltham Cllr Spencer Drury raised the issue of bowls clubs closing and asked for the Council to delay plans to withdraw its support for Council bowling greens. It has now been confirmed that the transfer of bowls clubs to their members will be delayed by a year, reflecting the concerns raised by Eltham residents and bowls clubs members with Spencer.
Over the summer of lockdown, Eltham Conservative Councillors Charlie Davis and Spencer Drury met with members of the two bowls clubs which use the rink at the Well Hall Pleasaunce to discuss the removal of support for them by Labour-run Greenwich Council.
Understandably the bowls clubs were concerned about the changes which would make it much harder to keep their sport going in Council-run spaces. In the autumn, Charlie and Spencer had thought that some progress had been made in organising support for the clubs to enable them to survive in the long run, however, unfortunately the situation deteriorated so that the Tudor Bowls Club informed the Council that they would be closing in 2021. In addition it is likely that the Blackheath Bowls Club (which plays outside the Rangers House) will be moving to the Well Hall Pleasaunce to try and share the costs of maintenance with the Eltham club(s).
Given the fact that the clubs were closed, Spencer raised the issue in the January meeting of the Royal Borough of Greenwich’s Council. At the time, the Cabinet Member rejected the concerns, but in the aftermath of the meeting there appears to have been a rethink and the transfer of the greens to the bowls clubs has been delayed by a year to allow further preparation time for the members.
Spencer said “I remain extremely concerned about the impact that the policy of ending support for local bowls club is having. With one of the clubs already announcing their closure and others considering their future, an outdoor sport which seems ideally suited to our post-covid world is under threat because of the policy of this Council. To repeat what I have said previously, the Council has bailed out Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL or Better) with almost £1m of taxpayer support, but these changes will save maybe £20,000pa while impacting on a relatively vulnerable group of residents. In my opinion, the Council would have been better focusing its efforts entirely on helping the bowls clubs to attract more members so that they could then make a greater contribution to the maintenance of the greens.”
Interestingly the policy of transferring Council assets to the bowls clubs (which is the way this policy is officially described) has been tried with allotments in the past. However the transfer of allotments has not happened, with only 3 of the 18 sites transferred because of the lack of capacity from volunteers at the allotment sites to take on the self-management responsibility. So this policy of shifting responsibility to volunteers has not worked for allotments, but the Council is trying it again with bowls clubs despite that previous failure.