‘Huge savings’ if a trust runs leisure sites and pools

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A TRUST could soon be running the council’s swimming pools, sports and leisure centres, saving council taxpayers £500,000 a year.

Councillors had considered selling the facilities to one or more private firms.

But in order to retain some control over the way they are run, Calderdale Council Communities Panel has advised that the use of a new or established trust would be the best option.

Members now intend to look in detail at how they operate in other areas.

Not only would a trust reduce the council’s running costs, but it should also be able to attract money to pay for restoration and upgrades, the panel was told.

The transfer would tie in with the Government’s policy for transforming public services by shifting power to citizens, communities and independent providers.

“A number of trusts and private contractors have successfully delivered sports and leisure services for other local authorities,” according to projects and assets manager Duncan Brundell.

“At least half of all local authorities now have their sports and leisure services provided by an outside agency and many others are considering this approach,” he told the panel.

The biggest savings for a trust relate to the VAT and business rates that are payable.

Savings of £213,000 and £121,000 are estimated for the new Brighouse and Sowerby Bridge swimming pools, £84,000 for North Bridge Leisure Centre and £64,000 for Todmorden pool.

Also under consideration as part of any transfer is The Shay Stadium, pools in Halifax and Elland, Spring Hall athletics track, the council’s sports and swimming development units and the “Upbeat” health service.

Trusts operate sports and leisure in Kirklees, Doncaster, Oldham and Stockport.

Some Calderdale schools have said they might be interested in aspects of a takeover.

The council could set up its own trust but no more than 20 per cent of the trustees can be council appointees, according to Mr Brundell, in a report to the scrutiny panel.