New chairman vows to pay back tax payer investment in Lowestoft sports centre

PUBLISHED: 17:34 19 October 2012 | UPDATED: 17:53 19 October 2012

Waterlane Leisure centre, Lowestoft.

Waterlane Leisure centre, Lowestoft.

Archant © 2012

The new chairman in charge of a flagship Waveney sports centre has moved to reassure taxpayers that a £300,000 investment will be repaid in full to Waveney District Council.

Andrew Wilson-Sutter, formerly the general manager of the district council’s operation partners Waveney Norse, made the pledge after taking over the Sentinel Leisure Trust in the wake of former chief executive Victoria Beck’s resignation this week.

It comes after Waveney District Council agreed to offer the investment following an investigation that revealed “budgetary concerns” at the Waterlane Leisure Centre in Lowestoft.

Mr Wilson-Sutter is leading a new five-person board of trustees tasked with driving Sentinel’s leisure operations forward by securing the long-term future of the trust with interim operational support from Waveney District Council.

Mr Wilson-Sutter said: “A huge amount of positive things have been achieved in the past 18 months across all of the Waveney leisure services operated by Sentinel including the whole scale improvements to the Waterlane Leisure Centre and the fantastic range of facilities now on offer throughout Waveney via the trust.

“However the task now is to ensure that Waterlane, its brilliant flagship venue, is operated effectively and efficiently to secure a viable and sustainable future for present users and generations to come.

“I am really pleased to have the opportunity to work in partnership with Waveney and I’m fully committed to taking Sentinel Leisure Trust forward into a new phase, with improved services In order to help get the Sentinel Business Model back to a position of strength the Trust has asked Waveney DC to provide interim management arrangements and additional financial support during this transitional period.”

Mr Wilson-Sutter also sought to reassure people in Waveney that additional public money beyond the existing contractual arrangements would not be propping up the trust.

Meanwhile, speaking after her resignation this week, Victoria Beck said: “It is clear that Sentinel has faced some particularly challenging times through a period of rapid expansion when the organisation is still in its infancy and in a tough economic climate.

“It is undoubtedly the best business model for leisure service delivery in the region and the priority for all concerned is to see that preserved for the benefit of the services, staff and customers.

“Following the formation of a new Board of Trustees it seems the right time for me too to step aside and allow Sentinel to make the fresh start which will give the organisation the best chance of achieving that aim. I wish Sentinel every success and trust it will continue to build on the foundations laid over its formative phase.”

Mr Wilson-Sutter is joined on the board by Keith Ibbertson, a former Metropolitan Police Officer and Jamie Starling a former Waveney councillor with considerable audit and risk experience.

Two trustees remain from the previous board, Tess Gandy and Kathleen Grant.

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