December 6 2013 Latest news:
Thursday, October 17, 2013
A new charitable trust is to be set up to take over running west Norfolk’s leisure centres from the council in a bid to save costs and preserve services for the future.
West Norfolk Borough Council (WNBC) said the increasing costs of running facilities such as the King’s Lynn Corn Exchange, Lynnsport and the Oasis Centre – together with reduced budgets – means: “Keeping things as they are is simply not an option.”
As a result, WNBC will cease direct control in favour of a board of trustees from the surrounding area, which is due to take over in July 2014. Switching to that model, the council said, will save the taxpayer about £400,000 per year, as trusts have to pay less in business rates and VAT.
It will also mean the board can apply for grants which are not open to local authorities, meaning it will be easier to attract future investment.
The council will, however, retain the responsibility for the repair and maintenance of the buildings. David Pope, cabinet member for assets, said: “The establishment of a trust means we can protect these well-used and valued services into the future without placing the burden on council taxpayers.”
He said increasing admission prices for using swimming pools and gyms was not an option, “as that would make the facilities prohibitively expensive for most people”.
He added: “We do not wish to raise council tax in order to increase funding.”
The trust could decide to increase prices in the future but Chris Bamfield, executive director of commercial services, said the trust would have to “provide services which are accessible to all”.
Liz Nockolds, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, will be one of the trustees, ensuring the council retains some influence going forward. She said the council had a responsibility towards public health and that moving to this model would allow the services to continue. She said people would notice little change.