Investigation sheds new light on Glasgow munis' problems

Littlehill

The number of rounds played on Glasgow’s six council-operated courses fell sharply in the last year – but so too did the investment into the upkeep of the facilities by the local authority.

A bunkered.co.uk investigation has found that between 1 April 2017 and 31 March 2018, the rounds played across the courses – Linn Park, Lethamhill, Littlehill, Knightswood, Ruchill and Alexandra Park – totalled 28,983.

Over the following 12 months, that number fell to 23,207, a reduction of 5,778 rounds and a year-on-year drop of 19.9%.

However, those figures align closely with a decrease in investment by Glasgow City Council in the facilities.

Again, between 1 April 2017 and 31 March 2018, the total expenditure by the local authority in the six courses came to £1,545,636. Within 12 months, that had fallen by over £200,000 to £1,336,514 – a decrease of 13.5% year on year.

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Our discoveries come just weeks after the approval of a new budget for the council threw the future of the six courses into fresh doubt.

Whilst no formal announcement has been made, bunkered.co.uk understands that there are plans afoot within the City Chambers for only one of the six courses, the nine-hole Knightswood, to remain under in local government control through the Glasgow Life management subsidiary.

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The fate of the other five courses is uncertain, with the very real possibility that all will close or be repurposed if they cannot be sold as going concerns.

The council’s interest in retaining Knightswood is quite obvious. Of the six courses, it enjoys comfortably the most rounds. Indeed, it was the only one that saw an increase in rounds played from 2017-18 to 2018-19, going from 8,745 to 8,900 – an increase of 1.8%. The five other courses under the authority’s control all saw double-digit, year-on-year percentage decreases, most notably Ruchill, where the rounds played more than halved in just 12 months. They fell from 694 to 322.

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As a nine-hole course, Knightswood also occupies a smaller site and, as a consequence, requires less investment than the council’s 18-hole courses: Linn Park, Lethamhill and Littlehill.

For the 2018-19 period, Knightswood cost the authority £182,372. Linn Park required investment of £266,091, with Littlehill and Lethamhill supported to the tune of £294,204 and £300,575.

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Rounds Played Table Expenditure

Even so, the money spent on Knightswood was markedly less than the investment in the facility during the preceding 12 months, down by 18.8% from £224,724.

A source we spoke to, who declined to be named, said: “Throughout last year’s public consultation into the future of these courses, Glasgow City Council and Glasgow Life maintained that the review was necessary because of ‘low usage figures combined with a substantial annual deficit’.

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“What they neglected to tell us was the extent to which they had cut their own investment into the maintenance and upkeep of these facilities. 

"The similarity between the percentage decrease in rounds played and the percentage decrease in investment tells a very compelling story - if you reduce your investment in public provisions, is it not reasonable to assume that you will reduce their appeal?

“In this instance, it would seem that, rather than the city’s golfers, it is the city council that has been the architect of these courses expected downfall.”

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