“Poorly planned and short-sighted” - council bids to take back control of leisure centres

King's Lynn Alive Corn Exchange Picture: Archant

King's Lynn Alive Corn Exchange Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

Tax payers could face a £2m bill if West Norfolk council takes back control of King's Lynn Corn Exchange and the borough's four leisure centres.

That is the warning from the trustees of charitable trust Alive Leisure, which was set up by the council in 2013 to run the King's Lynn Corn Exchange, Lynnsport, St James Pool, Downham Leisure and Hunstanton Oasis. Now the council has voted to take them back over again.

Its leader, Brian Long, said: 'The financial climate continues to be difficult, on balance members have decided that developing a new leisure company, that is wholly owned by the borough council, will improve the possibilities for future investment in the centres, growing participation and mean that the council has greater control over financial decisions.

'We will continue to work positively with Alive Leisure while the new company is established and operation of the centres transferred. There should be little disruption to the services for users during this period, in the same way that there was no disruption when the current arrangements were established in 2014.

Alive Leisure said the decision was 'poorly-planned and short-sighted'.

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Its chair Peter Lemon said: 'The process that the borough council has followed so far lacks rigour and clarity, and much of the information contained in the review document we have seen is inaccurate and misleading.

'As a not for profit charitable trust, Alive Leisure's only aim is to deliver outstanding leisure and cultural facilities to the people of West Norfolk.'

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Alive Leisure believes that setting up a new council business to run West Norfolk's leisure and cultural services could cost in the region of £2m.

Mr Lemon said: 'The council would effectively be starting from scratch and inconveniencing the thousands of regular, happy customers we have.'

Vice chair of Alive Leisure, Dr Ian Mack, said: 'Our Board members first saw a copy of the council's consultant's report on July 31 and had just one week to respond at a meeting with council officers and two senior cabinet members.'

'A hurried series of meetings were also held in private by the council during August, excluding the media and the public.'

Mr Lemon added: 'We strongly believe that Alive Leisure Trust has played a significant role in maintaining and developing sport and leisure services in the borough, and we are committed to providing a good service to our community. We are not ready to give up, and will be putting together a detailed and positive plan which we urge the council to give full and detailed consideration to at the next cabinet meeting on October 2.'

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