First steps towards trust to run Newport leisure
8:01am Friday 6th September 2013 in News
THE first steps towards Newport council-run leisure services being moved to an outside body are set to be taken at a meeting on Monday.
The authority's cabinet will decide whether to start work on a full business case for an "alternative delivery model" for sport and leisure in Newport, a document leaked to the Argus says.
Much of the Newport International Sports Village (NISV), including the velodrome, and Newport Centre are included in the proposals, although Bettws' Active Leisure Centre and Caerleon Golf Course are left out.
The move comes in the wake of the Prospectus for Change report which mooted leisure services being run by a trust, and comes amid tough times for councils across the UK.
However the report does not appear to identify a preferred set up at this stage, although it states rate relief may be available if the new body was a charity.
It details a range of previously tested possibilities, including moving to a not for profit organisation, contracting out to a private firm, collaborating with other councils, setting up a wholly owned arms length company or starting a joint venture.
Several other councils across England and Wales have sought alternatives to running leisure services in-house, including Torfaen.
The document says initial council work conclude that the authority shouldn't cease investing in the service as investing in sport and physical activities is aligned to the council’s vision of improving people’s lives.
However it didn’t conclude that the council should be the main organisation to deliver them either.
The report, which weighs up the pros and cons of the idea, argues that while in-house delivery gives the council direct control, it has no advantages for tax and funds cannot be reinvested to improve financial in future services.
An alternative delivery model could provide some tax benefits – especially if the organisation is a charity – and have a local focus with representation from residents and businesses, officers write.
However it admits that it could be difficult to recruit trustees with relevant expertise, and that the services would lose the economies of scale with other council services.
The NISV and Newport Centre facilities could save £431,716 on rates through a 80 per cent discount available to charities, but the document doesn’t mention that the Welsh Government is considering cutting this relief.
Officers wrote that council centres which required substantial and disproportionate investment compared to the potential for developing sport and physical activity have been closed, with new fit for purpose provision developed.
This strategy has increased overall usage and participation, but the opportunity for the council to continue investing in this service is no longer available given overall budget pressures.
According to figures for 2013/14 NISV and the Newport Centre had a collected council budget of £1,025,181 and £2,288,938 in income from fees and other items.
Officers advise the authority seeks specialist advice to progress to a full detailed business and financial plan – including a detailed assessment on the condition of the buildings and of the best model, financial plan, human resources implications and other issues.
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