The cost of new memberships for leisure centres in Reading have rocketed under new operator Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL), with concerns they provide “bad value”.

GLL, known publicly as Better, took over the running of Reading’s four council-owned leisure centres this month.

Having already operated Rivermead Leisure Centre it now also runs Meadway Leisure Centre, South Reading Leisure Centre and Palmer Park Sports Stadium.

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The new leisure centres and pools at Palmer Park and Rivermead are being built by GLL and will also be under their management

Since the takeover, prices for new members have risen from between £16 and £35 to between £28 and £60.

Green councillor David McElroy said: "It's definitely bad value for those priced out of these services.

"The price increase is a barrier to usage, where post-Covid we need to make access to health and fitness a priority, not a luxury.

"Maybe they'll be better value when the two new pools are built, presuming they don't use that as an excuse to hike prices even further.”

Councillor Graeme Hoskin, Reading Borough Council’s (RBC) lead member for Health, Wellbeing and Sport, said the different membership packages “aim to be competitive with the marketplace in Reading as it is now, to attract custom and to be competitive”.

And a spokesman for RBC said there will be no membership price hikes once the new centres are open, other than standard inflationary increases, and any significant changes to pricing would only take place following consultation.

How have prices changed?

Previously, monthly memberships for Meadway, South Reading and Palmer Park were between £16 and £35 under the Reading Sport and Leisure (RSL) membership, with access to all three sites.

Existing members will be able to keep these prices, which have also been frozen for the last three years, but for new members the cheapest membership will be £28 and will only provide access to one site.

Residents will have to pay £40 to access four sites, or £60 if they want access to racquet sports such as squash and tennis. The £60 membership also gives access to Better leisure centres across the UK.

Old membership fees

New membership fees

The council is investing more than £40 million in leisure facilities in the town, which it says will result in "some of the very best sports facilities in our region".

This includes brand-new modern swimming pools at Rivermead and Palmer Park opening by 2023 and "substantial improvements" at Meadway and South Reading Leisure Centre, which will begin shortly.

READ MORE: Rivermead and Palmer Park swimming pool costs rise by more than £2 million

And it says GLL’s £40 multi-site membership is cheaper than equivalents in Wokingham (£49) Maidenhead (£63.95), while neither offer single-centre memberships.

Prices for current members will be fixed apart from inflation increases each year. Any other price change would have to come back to a council committee for approval.

The council says prices for new members are more reflective of the industry standard, are tailored to offer people a choice of depending on their preference and include single centre, off peak, senior, junior and student memberships.

Construction on the brand new Rivermead leisure centre and the new pool at Palmer Park is due to begin this summer with the aim of delivering the new facilities by Spring 2023.

A spokesman added: “The council is fully committed to increasing the levels of participation in physical activities, which has never been more important.

“GLL’s operation of Reading’s four leisure centres on the council’s behalf is an important part of our commitment to delivering modern new leisure facilities and improving health and wellbeing across Reading."