Major plan for leisure services put on hold

One of the biggest shake-ups of services in Waveney's history has been delayed following a turbulent few weeks for the district council.

One of the biggest shake-ups of services in Waveney's history has been delayed following a turbulent few weeks for the district council.

Ambitious plans to hand over the management of the district's sports centres, parks, beaches and flagship theatre to a newly-formed trust were due to be voted on next month, but will now be put on ice until April.

The announcement about the future of leisure services came at the end of a difficult month for the authority, which saw a poor Annual Governance report from the Audit Commission before chief executive Glen Garrod and strategic director Louise Jordan-Hall left their posts.

The shake-up of leisure services is part of a wider introduction of an enabling agenda from the Tory-led council, where outside operators will be brought in to run many services.

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Council leader Mark Bee said: "Delaying the leisure implementation will enable the council to concentrate fully on the operations and facilities programme.

"This is a process that requires considerable input from our management team and, following the recent Annual Governance report, it is clear that the organisation has much to focus on during the next few months."

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Mr Garrod admitted he did not possess the skills to turn Waveney's fortunes around and while details behind Ms Jordan-Hall's retirement have been less forthcoming, the council admitted it was part of an ongoing review of its operations.

Under the leisure-services plan, the council would retain ownership of facilities and insist on having up to 20pc representation on the new trust's management board.

The trust would have access to funding previously unavailable to the council and the development of a sports complex for Beccles and an expansion of Lowestoft's Marina Theatre are among projects already identified.

Mr Bee said: "Each project must be afforded appropriate time and resources to get them absolutely right. Therefore, this is the most responsible option, enabling us to concentrate our capacity in some of those areas and carry out further research on the leisure options..."

He added that work on the development of a Beccles sports complex and the refurbishment of the Water Lane Leisure Centre, in Lowestoft, would continue.

David Young, leader of the council's Lib Dem group, said delaying such a huge project could potentially damage the credibility of the administration, but added: "I can see the sense in delaying it so when it finally comes out it will be in the best possible format it can be."

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