CITY Councillors have voted to trial a full-time ranger at Belfairs after it was revealed the council could be losing £30,000 a month from golfers who fail to pay their course fees.
Stephen Aylen, non-aligned councillor for Belfairs Ward, introduced a motion at the last council meeting.
He said: “There has been a massive increase in the use of Belfairs Park by non-paying golfers.
“In the 70s queues formed every day to play the course. The park was patrolled by keepers in uniform. Belfairs Park generated more revenue than the pier and the crematorium. Then cost cutting and the park keepers were withdrawn
“Golfers, who discovered there was no one to check whether they had paid, simply walked on the course and played from dusk to dawn. In the summer 4.30am to 10pm. There’s no one to challenge them. £27 a round in the morning.”
Coun Aylen added: “From 2016 to 2018 it was estimated the course lost uncollected fees of £30,000 a month. With no effective cover to police the course, paying regulars are leaving, season ticket sales have dropped.
“This could be changed. A full-time park warden would not only collect lost revenue, they would reduce costs from vandalism, assist lost people, ensure emergency gates were not blocked, stop fires and barbecues.
“All that’s being asked for is a full-time park warden that would be self-financing to the benefit of rate payers and Southend City people to enjoy the park.
Kevin Buck, councillor for highways, transport and parking, said: “Some of the issues we have at Belfairs are the way club golf and how golf in general is played has changed over the decades, but there is no question it’s time to revisit the removal of the park ranger to understand the scale of the problem and it is a problem.
“It’s one that actually is causing some golfers to no longer want to pay to play at the golf course, because they feel so many are jumping on and not paying so why should they pay £27 to play when so many can jump on.
“We need to do a year-long trial on this.”
Councillors voted 26 for the trial of a park ranger with 17 abstentions.
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