Council seeks trusts to run pools and sports centres

Exterior of the new Sowerby Bridge Pool and Fitness Centre
Exterior of the new Sowerby Bridge Pool and Fitness Centre
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AN established trust could be asked to take over the management of Calderdale sports centres and swimming pools.

Councillors have been studying detailed options for “outsourcing” leisure services for well over a year in an effort to cut costs.

But they have been unable to decide whether it would be better to keep the service in-house, sell-off everything or to adopt a trust model.

In a bid to make progress, Calderdale Council Cabinet has decided to explore the idea of transferring services to a trust by “soft market testing” which is expected to involve talks with existing trusts.

This will give the council further information on which to base a decision, without committing it to a particular provider.

Meetings have been held with Kirklees Active Leisure, which runs council-owned sports centres in Huddersfield, and Rochdale’s Leisure Trust.

The council could save £500,000 a year in rates and VAT if seven pools and sports centres were run by a charitable trust.

The biggest saving, £213,000, would be at Brighouse Pool and £121,000 at Sowerby Bridge Pool. North Bridge Leisure Centre and Todmorden Sports Centre are also on the list.

A trust could carry out alterations and building improvements which the council can’t afford.

Leisure services spokeswoman, Coun Pauline Nash, said it was impossible at this stage to say when changes might be made or if the trust route was the right option.

*In September 2003, 10 companies expressed interest in completely taking over seven leisure venues but a sell-off failed to materialise.