Shell Cove Playgroup closes down

Shell Cove playgroup members Emma Reitsma, Deanna Breasley (treasurer) and Belinda Margetts (co-ordinator) with their children at the weekly playgroup. Picture Eliza Winkler

Shell Cove playgroup members Emma Reitsma, Deanna Breasley (treasurer) and Belinda Margetts (co-ordinator) with their children at the weekly playgroup. Picture Eliza Winkler

AFTER seven years in operation the Shell Cove Playgroup will fold due to rent increases.

The not-for-profit community group has been operating out of Shell Cove Community Centre and six families currently attend each week. 

Shellharbour City Council, which manage the facility, increased the rent from $160 to $220 per term.

Playgroup co-ordinator Belinda Margetts said fees for using the centre had gone up 27 per cent in the past 12 months and they would need to charge families $200 a year to continue operating. 

“Originally our fees were $8 an hour and they have since jumped to $11,” she said.

“It’s just too much. It is expensive paying rent, let alone all the other things we need.

“We raise some funds for resources and fees for the term have covered the rent, but to put them up by almost 30 per cent, it just isn’t fair on the families.”

A Shellharbour City Council spokesperson said not-for-profit groups were charged the lowest rate, however all council services were subject to a financial review every year.

“Fee charges to the playgroup for the use of the activity room increased by $1 (per hour),’’ the spokesperson said.

“Changes to council’s fees and charges are placed on public exhibition for a period of 28 days. Within this period council welcome’s submission from residents and users of council’s facilities relating to these fees.”

However, Ms Margetts said the group were not consulted about the changes and while the increase might be small, they would be forced to increase fees from $30 to $50 per term.

“It is just too much to ask families to pay $200 a year to participate in the group,” she said.

“Council are also asking for us to pay two months in advance which is a new thing. Our term payment was $160 which has now gone up to $220 and on top of that we have to pay the extra two months.

 “While I understand changes to fees, the real issue is they changed the role of the former centre co-ordinator, he handled all of our invoices and dealing with the council and now we don’t have that support.” 

Playgroup treasurer Deanna Breasley said over the years the playgroup had offered mothers, carers and children a chance to socialise with others in the community and build strong friendships.

“It has been a really good thing for our kids to meet before they head off to school,” she said.

“My six year old started kindergarten this year and he went off to school with another boy the same age that he met through the playgroup.

“We will close at the end of the term (five weeks) and it is sad because the club has been running for seven years.”

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