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Could free iCards for Ipswich youngsters return in 2019?

PUBLISHED: 19:00 20 September 2018

The free iCards over summer 2018 in Ipswich allowed youngsters to enjoy sports sessions Picture: PHIL MORLEY

The free iCards over summer 2018 in Ipswich allowed youngsters to enjoy sports sessions Picture: PHIL MORLEY

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Speculation is mounting over whether free iCards issued to thousands of Ipswich youngsters over the summer holidays could be rolled out again in future years.

Youngsters in Ipswich were given a free iCard for the duration of the six week summer holidays Picture: JASON NOBLEYoungsters in Ipswich were given a free iCard for the duration of the six week summer holidays Picture: JASON NOBLE

In June, Ipswich Borough Council leader David Ellesmere pledged free iCards for all young people up to the age of 16 as part of measures to help stop teenagers falling in with gangs.

The cards were valid for the six week summer holidays and allowed them to take advantage of sports sessions at the borough council-run swimming pools and sports centres.

It came in the wake of the death of Tavis Spencer-Aitkens, which prompted a wave of concern from parents for how vulnerable children could be recruited into gangs.

At Wednesday night’s full council meeting, Labour portfolio holder for culture and leisure Bryony Rudkin said the early signs were that it had been successful.

“I think the summer iCard was a success,” she said.

“Thirteen-thousand iCards were issued and attendance was 13% up compared to the same period last year.”

A review of all the data, including costs, are currently being compiled and set to be finalised this autumn.

Mrs Rudkin said: “There are lots of key points and one of the things we may want to look at is how many people took them up.

“We are looking at [attendances] with half term coming and February half term, and in particular we want to know what our customers think and whether their habits changed. That’s an ongoing piece of work.”

Figures published by the borough council in its monitoring report for the first three months of the year revealed a £40,000 shortfall in income from sport and leisure facilities – a figure not impacted by the free iCards.

When questioned by the Conservative group at Wednesday’s meeting on the cost of the free iCards, Mrs Rudkin added: “I think there will be a cost but I think that cost was worth it.

“Hopefully it changes the lives of some young people in our town who wouldn’t have had access to these services in our town otherwise.”

Mrs Rudkin said it was too early to say whether any similar promotions could be run next year, with data on attendance at sports facilities from the half term and Christmas holidays needed as a point of comparison.

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