FREE deckchairs and reduced fee windbreak hire for older residents at Weymouth could be under threat.

The town council is to review the policy which, for more than 30 years, has allowed Weymouth and Portland residents over 60 to have the free use of a deckchair and, for the last 20 years, 50 per cent off the costs of a windbreak.

Options being considered this week include raising the age to 65, scrapping the perk altogether, or extending the eligibility to Portland residents not already with a pass, if their town council contributes to the cost.

“Some of those who have retired enjoy high levels of disposable income and some have second homes. A deckchair currently costs £2.20 to hire for a full or part day; and a suntrap £3,” said a report to this week’s services committee.

The policy was last looked at in 2017 when it applied to Weymouth and Portland residents. Councillors then decided to retain the scheme with more than 80 per cent of resident polled asking them to do so. At the time there were 5,000 passes in use, which are still valid today, including around 200 for Portland residents.

Since the new Weymouth town council came into being in May this year around 400 further passes have been issued.

In 2019 deckchair passes were used on 3,390 occasions with 26 discounted windbreaks used.

Portland Town Council has been asked to consider a £1,000 contribution by Weymouth Town Council to continue the benefit for around 200 Island residents beyond this season, but has yet to make a decision on the request.

A report to this week’s Weymouth town council services committee meeting on Wednesday (23rd) says that if the scheme were scrapped it might result in an extra £1,500 a year in hire fees – because most existing pass holders would switch to either use free seating on the Esplanade, or bring their own chairs, or blankets.

The recommendation to the committee is to continue with the scheme as it is for Weymouth residents, honouring all passes issued to date but to consider increasing the age from 60 to 65 from April 2020 and to include Portland residents currently not in the scheme if their town council agrees to meet the cost.

Another suggestion, which is not being recommended, is to scrap all existing passes and issue new ones, excluding Portland residents, which would cost around £2,100 for the passes and staff time.