LEISURE centre prices could go up in the city if plans to scrap subsidies go ahead, a council watchdog committee fears.

Fusion Lifestyle manages leisure centres and swimming pools for Oxford City Council, and has said it wants to reduce the subsidies it gets from 47p per user to nothing by 2017.

But council scrutiny committee chairman Craig Simmons said the firm had failed to explain how it would do so without raising prices.

It comes as the firm said it wanted to increase the number of disabled people, women and people from poorer backgrounds that head to its facilities.

Mr Simmons said: “The question is how they are going to achieve the reduction.

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“It can be done by getting more users or getting existing ones to attend more regularly, but clearly the other way is to increase costs.

“That is something the committee is concerned about, because making it more expensive just makes it more elitist. We will be keeping this under watch.”

Fusion signed a 10-year contract with the city council in 2009 and in February 2014 it was agreed to extend it by another five years.

The centres it manages include the Ferry Leisure Centre, Oxford Ice Rink, Barton Leisure Centre, Leys Pools and Leisure Centre and Hinksey Pool.

Gee Crane, of Cowley Road, is a regular user of the Oxford Brookes University gym in Headington, but also uses the Leys Pools and Leisure Centre.

The 37-year-old said: “The nice thing about the leisure facilities in Oxford is that they are available to people on a budget.

“But I’d be worried if prices did go up more, even by a little bit, because it all adds up.

“Membership fees are already slightly too expensive for me and so I stopped mine and now use the Brookes gym.

“I do still use the Blackbird Leys leisure centre but it would put me off if prices went up again.”

Fusion has proposed to lower the net subsidy per user to nothing by 2017, down from £2.14 when it took on the leisure management for the council.

It said the subsidy was currently 47p per user but would fall to 8p next year and to nothing the following year.

The Oxford Mail asked Fusion and the city council to explain how subsidies would be reduced without increasing leisure centre prices, but neither responded.

Last year the council said leisure centre charges would rise as part of its corporate strategy for up to 2018. It said an annual Choice Card – a leisure centres membership card – would rise by £11 a year for an adult, from £517 to £528.

Swimming lesson prices at council pools will also rise from £11.70 an hour for an adult to £12.

Since signing its deal with the council in 2009, Fusion said it has made savings of £660,000 per year and carried out £13.5m of improvements to facilities.

And it said since 2009 usage had increased by 40 per cent, to 1.3 million visits per year.

Among users, it reported that 98 per cent were “satisfied” and 55 per cent said the leisure centres were “excellent”.

In the coming years the firm said it would continue to target potential users from poorer backgrounds, older people, disabled people and women.