The debate will be streamed live on YouTube as Derbyshire Dales councillors consider the future direction of our four leisure centres at a special council meeting tonight (Thursday 1 December) at 6pm.
Continuing pressure to find budget savings has prompted the District Council to review its leisure service, including the four leisure centres in Ashbourne, Bakewell, Matlock and Wirksworth.
And although efficiency savings of more than £110,000 have already been achieved as part of the review process, councillors will debate whether the best way of safeguarding the future of this discretionary service is to outsource the running of the four centres to a management company.
The aim of the leisure review was to examine ways to reduce this burden by exploring the feasibility of alternative delivery methods as the current situation is not sustainable.
By the end of 2019/20 the District Council’s Settlement Funding Assessment - the main source of government grant funding - will have reduced by 56%, or £2m, from 2013/14. The Council has already made significant savings of £900,000 in the last three years but continuing financial pressure and additional demands means a further £1.2m savings are required over the next five years.
Earlier this year an interim report suggested the most appropriate options could be to either outsource the management of the four centres and retain sports development in-house, or examine the possibility of handing the Bakewell and Wirksworth centres into local community control while retaining Arc Leisure Matlock and Ashbourne Leisure Centre, together with the sports development team.
Consultants have subsequently collated greater detail on the financial and service benefits of both options, reflecting 2015/16 year-end figures, as well as undergoing exploratory work into the possibility of Community Asset Transfers for Bakewell Swimming Pool and Wirksworth Leisure Centre.
Their recommendation – supported by officers of the council – is that the running of the four leisure centres be outsourced as a package to a management company, with the District Council retaining ownership of the buildings.
This is seen as the only way of maintaining and potentially improving the service and facilities while also contributing significantly to the District Council’s overall financial stability. The recommendation also includes retaining the sports development team in-house.
But it is councillors who will make the final decision at the Matlock Town Hall meeting.
Council Leaders will not be commenting ahead of the meeting, but earlier this year Leader Councillor Lewis Rose OBE said there was an obligation to continue to review every single one of the council’s services on a rolling basis to make them as efficient and cost-effective as possible.
- The Leisure Review report can be viewed online.