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Cash crisis could lead to city sports centres being hived off
CUTS are being made to council-run sports centres in Worcester in a bid to save £128,000 by 2015.
City council chiefs want to hand over the running of St John’s Sports Centre and Nunnery Wood Sports Complex to a new operator from April – which is almost certain to be a trust.
Trusts benefit from lower VAT charges and rates, with bosses hoping the move will secure the long-term future of both sites. Of the four council-owned sites in Worcester, two of them – Perdiswell Leisure Centre and Worcester Swimming Pool and Fitness Centre – are run by Leisure Connection.
Council chiefs say if an established trust comes in to run the two other facilities which remain in-house, they will benefit from “economies of scale” [factors causing costs to fall while volume of output increases] in areas such as marketing and IT. At the moment, the city council spends about £1.3 million a year on sports centres but only receives £1 million in income, leaving a net budget spend of around £300,000.
Councillor Jabba Riaz, cabinet member for safer and stronger communities, said: “From a city perspective, the debate has been about whether we can keep them in-house or hand them to a trust. We need to make sure the centres are preserved and that is what this is about. The key thing for me is making sure we benefit from the Olympic legacy – we are looking for the best operator to take them on.”
The city council is hoping any deal with a trust means the impact on front line services for customers will be minimal. There are no suggestions at this point that prices will be increased.
The handover was also debated during a meeting of the performance management and budget scrutiny committee (PMBS) at the Guildhall.