LEEDS City Council is consulting on closing half of the city’s council-maintained bowling greens, according to a paper on the authority’s own website.

A consultation document states that one of the proposals to help plug the authority’s projected £118m budget gap for next year is to close 50 percent of all public greens maintained by the council in order to save around £83,000 a year.

It is understood the council is set to formally announce the consultation today.

One of the heads of Leeds’s Crown Green Bowls Association has said he was “disappointed” at the document, adding the council would save such a small amount by damaging an activity that is vital to so many elderly people in the city.

The council’s consultation document states that there are 62 outdoor bowling greens on 48 sites that are managed and maintained by the council’s parks and countryside service.

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It added: “There is an overall cost of around £4,000 per green largely made up of labour costs representing a total cost of £248,000 for all 62 greens.  As indicated, the level of income (from members’ fees) in 2019/20 was £43,000 and therefore the net level of subsidy is around £205,000.

“The net saving would be £83,000 each year which takes account of an assumed income reduction if 31 greens were closed along with making due allowance for the capital cost of re-landscaping any greens removed.  It would also enable a reduction of 4.5 full time equivalent gardeners.”

Secretary of the CGBA Steve Olivant said: “It is very disappointing to hear. I am 55, and considered one of the youngsters – most of the bowls players are 60 or 70-plus.

“It’s really the only time some of them get the sort of social interaction, so I know it’s going to be a big shock to them.

“I know it’s only 50 percent, and bowling numbers have been going down, but we do have a thriving junior section as well.

“We do understand with the current financial climate that the council is struggling to find money, but that figure does seem quite low compared to the benefits it brings for so many people.”

Due to Coronavirus restrictions, the 2020 bowls season was unable to go ahead, due in no small part to the vulnerability of many of the players. Mr Olivant is concerned that the current lack of social interaction faced by many of the players could continue long after a Covid vaccine if the closures go ahead.

He said: “I keep regularly in touch with bowlers, and everybody is missing it. It’s a friendly game, so it’s the social interaction I am worried about – it’s great to get out in the fresh air and meet new people.

“It’s a small but vital bit of older people’s recreation – sometimes it’s the only time they get out of the house.”

The deadline for responding is on Monday, December 14 at 5pm.