On April Fool’s Day, April 1st, Hammersmith & Fulham Council decided to start charging personal trainers £350 a year to use public parks.
If other councils are crazy enough to follow suit, this will mean that personal trainers will have to pay a separate charge to each and every borough council whose parks they train clients in. That might mean £3,500 slapped on a trainer with park clients across 10 boroughs.
I can’t help thinking this policy is unfair, illogical, and unenforceable. It will discourage Londoners from getting help to get fit, it will force start-up personal trainers out of business, and it goes against the principle of public parks being free for all.
The reasoning behind this charge? Personal trainers make money out of the park, use it as their place of business, so they should make a contribution. And it will enable councils to vet personal trainers, weed out unqualified ones, and protect the public. All these arguments are false.
Personal trainers and their clients are already contributing to the upkeep of the parks through their council tax. They pay tax, national insurance, get no holiday pay or sick pay, and yet councils see fit to impose this additional tax on trainers.
It’s a tax on fitness at a time when Londoners should be encouraged for getting fit, not penalised.
And it’s not as if an individual personal trainer with one client is draining the resources of the park.
Are they causing any obstruction? No! Do they cause any annoyance or excess noise (apart from a few muffled grunts from the client)? No! Do they have a permanent presence, or leave rubbish or cause any wear and tear (apart from a few squashed blades of grass)? No!
It’s worth making a distinction here between individual personal trainers with a single client, and bootcamp organisations which train over a dozen clients at the same time. These bootcamps are charged £1,200 a year for training in the park, which is fair enough as they eat up lots of space and squeeze out other park users from the spot they train in. Totally different scenario from one personal trainer with one client.
How can such a policy be enforced? What’s to stop the trainer telling the parks police that he’s training a friend for free? And how can it be enforced fairly? Will a trainer who just runs through a park with a client a few times a week be expected to pay the same as a trainer who uses the park 5 hours a day every day?
Parks are public spaces, and personal training clients should be free to use the park to get fit, without an extra charge being passed onto them. All the pavements of a London borough are public spaces too, so what’s next, a charge for personal trainers jogging along the pavement with their client?
And the safety/regulation argument is nonsense. Clients are perfectly capable of checking qualifications, membership of the Register of Personal Trainers, first aid certificates, when they hire a personal trainer. Yet another layer of bureaucracy is the last thing anyone needs.
And if borough councils want to do more to promote the safety and wellbeing of people using the park, there are dozens of higher priorities they should focus on: dangerous dogs, gangs, drugs, dog litter, discarded syringes, drunks, rogue fast-food traders. A personal trainer is hardly a risk to the public when compared to this list.
What do you think? Have your say in the comments section below…..