Future of all council’s leisure centres in the balance
Elgan Hearn Local Democracy Reporter
The future of all leisure centres in one Welsh county is in the balance, after calls for reassurance that they will all be open in three years time went unanswered.
At the meeting on Powys County Council’s Economy, Residents and Communities scrutiny committee on Tuesday, January 30 councillors went through budget proposals for the “community development” directorate which includes leisure provision.
The leisure service is currently being reviewed and there are concerns that some leisure centres and swimming pools face the axe.
For 2024/2025 the council budget will be £340.7 million with the expectation that a funding gap of £10.652 million to balance the budget will be plugged by cuts, savings, and income generation from council services.
The directorate have put forward £1.65 million worth of savings and cuts to help fill funding gap.
Committee vice-chairman Conservative, Cllr Karl Lewis said: “With these budget reductions can you give assurances that no leisure centres will be closed for the next three years.”
Newly promoted director of economic development and growth Ms Reynolds: “Any changes to service provision are a political decision and are part of the leisure services review and will be coming to scrutiny as part of that process.”
Cabinet member for leisure, Liberal Democrat Cllr David Selby said: “What is in front of us is the budget that is sustainable for the financial year.
“We’re doing a lot of work not only on the leisure review, but sustainable Powys and all of those decisions are still to be taken.”
Not for profit company, Freedom Leisure run 13 leisure, sports centres, and swimming pools across Powys and were awarded a 15 year council contract in 2015 to run the facilities.
Earlier in the meeting, councillors asked for details of a £1.1 million saving proposal on Freedom Leisure’s utility bills.
Interim head of community services, Jenny Ashton explained that this money had been set aside in December 2022 to deal with sky rocketing energy costs.
Ms Ashton said: “Due to Freedom Leisure managing their energy contract, housekeeping and energy saving measures they have confirmed that the additional funding is not required – so it is put forward as a saving.”
Cabinet is set to receive comments from council scrutiny committees on the draft budget at a meeting on Tuesday, February 6.
The budget is set to be finalised at a council meeting on February 22.
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