A CUT in the number of Thurso schools available for let at weekends and evenings would be “disastrous” for some local groups and clubs.
That was the claim made this week by the chairman of Thurso Community Council, Mike Potts, after discovering Miller Academy and Pennyland have been taken off the Highland Council list to save money.
The decision means Thurso High and Mount Pleasant would be the only ones in the town offering lets when the schools reopen in August after the summer break.
Mr Potts told Tuesday night’s meeting that some community groups will be affected as they will have nowhere else to go.
“Schools should be available for let all the time,” he said. “There must be some way to make schools available for hire for sports and other things. This is disastrous and beyond belief.”
Vice-chairwoman Thelma Mackenzie said young people and others would be affected by the decision. “The problem is we do not have a community hall like other places,” she said.
Community councillor Rae Smith said: “They should have thought about that before they took the town hall away.”
It was claimed it costs almost £48 an hour to hire the games hall at Thurso High, while the figure for Miller Academy is about £30 an hour.
“That is disgraceful,” community councillor and local businessman Colin Johnston said.
Mrs Smith added: “It is so expensive, clubs in Thurso can’t afford it.”
She said that when the local authority makes cuts, janitors and cleaners are among the first to be affected: “They only get so many hours a week now but management is still top heavy.”
Councillor Donnie Mackay, who represents Thurso and Northwest Caithness on Highland Council, said there are “very few janitors these days and that is making a difference”.
He is to take the issue up with the local authority and highlight the concerns.
A Highland Council spokeswoman said: “There will be some changes to which schools open for lets from August 2018. The changes mean some groups will be asked to move their activities to neighbouring schools.
“However, the council has sought to minimise the number of groups affected and the distance to the nearest alternative venue. Any groups affected will be offered alternative accommodation on renewal of their let.”
The aim is to provide “a more structured, efficient use of staff and premises”, she said.
“There is scope to reduce staff costs associated with facilitating lets. Rationalising school premises will reduce the overall need for staff attendance for both opening and closing of sites, cleaning and energy consumption.
“Discussions are ongoing across Highland (including Caithness) about which school facilities will be let by Highland Council and at this point in time we are unable to confirm which schools in the Thurso High associated school grouping will be available for let.”