INCREASED charges for the use of Cumberland Council's community facilities, will be capped at five per cent until the end of February pending a review of the schedule of fees and charges.
Councillors will hold an urgent workshop on Wednesday, November 15, to discuss the fee structure for the hire of community halls and rooms introduced in June after concerns were raised on behalf of some long-time users about big jumps in charges.
Among those affected is the Step In Time Talent Studio at Greystanes, which is facing an increase of more than 200 per cent from $4,040 a term to $12,500.
State MP for Prospect, Dr Hugh McDermott, told the councillors that the dance studio served the community and only made a small profit yet it was treated as a fully commercial operator under the schedule of fees.
"If the council increases the rents so it sends this school broke, there will be no going back," he said.
A move by councillors Ned Attie, Joseph Rahme, and Tom Zreika to freeze increases at 2016/17 levels until a revised fees and charges schedule was endorsed, failed to garner enough support, with the majority of councillors voting to cap the increase instead.
"The communities and constituents that utilise these assets form the backbone of our community and we should be supporting them and encouraging them to utilise these assets," Cr Rahme said.
Cr Zreika described the current fee schedule as "exorbitant and nothing more than highway robbery".
These facilities were built by the community for the community," he said.
"I support a freeze to increases to hall/room hire rates because I believe community facility fees should be nominal and as close to free as possible."