Council could manage centre

editorial image

A VALUED community amenity could be taken back under council control to save it for local residents.

Ashfield District Council’s cabinet is set to further consider scrutiny committee recommendations to operate Huthwaite Leisure Centre as a leisure centre back under the council’s direct control.

The New Street facility is currently managed on behalf of the council by Sports and Leisure Management Ltd (SLM), along with the authority’s five other leisure centres.

But falling user numbers and income led to proposals to close the Huthwaite centre and its closure was approved in January 2009.

The decision was called-in and postponed for two years.

Interest in taking over the leisure centre was actively sought in the meantime, but no suitable organisations came forward and so the option of bringing the facility back under council control was turned to.

The management fee charged by SLM for Huthwaite Leisure Centre is £85,680 per year and the contract states the council can remove any leisure centre from SLM’s control by giving six month’s notice.

The preferred option put forward to councillors was to reclassify the leisure centre as a council-run community centre, saving up to £70,000 per year.

But Coun David Kirkham told last Monday’s cabinet meeting that to avoid a ‘significant negative effect on the community of Huthwaite’, the facility should be brought back in-house as a leisure centre, even though it needs investment in its facilities.

“The community doesn’t want to lose the facility as a leisure centre,” he said.

The cabinet agreed that the matter will be referred to a future meeting, pending further consideration of the cost implications by the portfolio holder for regeneration, culture and housing and the service director for economy.

Should the centre should be taken back under council control, existing staff could be retained and increased promotion of the facility could generate more income to cover the additional £4,000 costs the arrangement would incur.