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Worcester City Council deal to hand over leisure centres to outside provider scrapped
PLANS to hand over two council-run sports centres in Worcester to an outside provider have been scrapped amid concerns the deal is no longer viable.
Worcester City Council has revealed that discussions about passing control of St John’s Sports Centre and Nunnery Wood Sports Complex to a trust have collapsed.
Wychavon Leisure Trust, which operates several similar facilities around Worcestershire, wanted to take them over in a deal aimed at saving £160,000 over two years.
But both parties blame competition from privately-owned leisure facilities and “the changing financial position” on why it was no longer possible to meet that aim.
Your Worcester News can also reveal how during July and September this year income at the centres dropped by 15 per cent.
Talks are now taking place to see what can be done to boost their popularity while the centres are being retained in-house.
Councillor Roger Berry, cabinet member for health and well-being, said: “We agreed to part quite amicably after they decided to withdraw. We will carry on operating them in-house and want to promote them so the take-up is increased.
“Clearly, the drop in income is a concern and I suspect that is due to the very competitive marketplace in Worcester. We are obviously disappointed by it and will still aim to look for alternative providers.”
By transferring it to a trust, savings of about £100,000 would have been gained due to reduced VAT and business rates. But that still left another £60,000 needing to be cut, and the trust had doubts about how that could be achieved.
As your Worcester News revealed in September, the council has decided to close the Nunnery Wood centre on Fridays, and reduce Saturday opening times by four hours, to save cash. It says the future of both sites is safe but it will be looking for fresh ideas to make savings, while also trying to promote them more.
Ruth Mullen, the council’s corporate director, said: “It’s sad that after so much hard work and commitment from both partners the changing financial position means we can’t strike a deal. I would like to thank Wychavon Leisure for their hard work on this and we look forward to working with them in the future.”
Trust managing director Peter Williams said: “It has become increasingly apparent to both parties that the changing local market place has made it impossible to satisfactorily conclude a mutually beneficial arrangement on a short term basis.”
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