13th November 2018

Community leisure decision

Somerset County Council will end its role in community leisure services once its current contract expires, if published recommendations are approved.

The Council’s ten-year contract with 1610 Limited to provide community leisure services on eight school sites across the county expires at the end of March 2019.

The County Council has no statutory responsibility to provide leisure services and, in light of the financial pressures facing the authority, the recommendation is that the County Council should stop commissioning leisure services and transfer the facilities to the schools.

Schools and their pupils will continue to use the facilities, but it is likely that some schools may not be able to afford to provide the the same community offer as currently available through 1610.

This would save the Council an annual management fee, which is currently around £900,000, plus the cost of maintaining and repairing the facilities.

“We’re committed to delivering the very best services possible, but we have to live within our means”, said Councillor David Hall, Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Planning and Community Infrastructure.

“Our focus has to be delivering our core responsibilities, particularly those that support our vulnerable residents. The Council has been in discussion with the schools and 1610 for some time regarding the end of the contract and, as much as we might like to support access to leisure facilities, it is not something for which we have a statutory responsibility, therefore in these challenging times we are no longer able to provide the funding necessary to support it.”

The school-based community leisure services included in the 1610 contract are:

  • Caryford Fitness & Leisure Centre, Ansford Academy, near Castle Cary
  • Castle Sports Centre, The Castle School, Taunton
  • Crewkerne Sports Centre, Wadham School, Crewkerne
  • Glastonbury Leisure Centre, St Dunstan’s Academy, Glastonbury
  • King Alfred’s Sports Centre, at The King Alfred School, Highbridge
  • Preston Sports Centre and Gym, at Preston School,  Yeovil
  • Stanchester Sports Centre, Stanchester Academy, Stoke-sub-Hamdon
  • West Somerset Sports & Leisure Centre, West Somerset College, Minehead

1610 will continue to work with The King Alfred School in Highbridge and Preston School in Yeovil to provide leisure services. These leases have been extended and services there will be unaffected.

If the recommendations are approved and the transfer of the leisure facilities takes place, continued community access would not be a condition of the transfer.

Schools have no statutory responsibility to provide community leisure facilities and each will have to work within their own financial constraints and the associated safeguarding complications that comes with running dual use sites.

All other 1610 Limited facilities and services outside of this contract, including those at Bridgwater’s Chilton Trinity School and Robert Blake Science College, would not be affected by this decision.

Cllr Hall said: “We would be delighted to see community access continue, but completely understand this may not be possible in all cases.”

If recommendations are approved, a decision would be made on 10 December. Council officers would continue to support the schools and 1610 on managing the end of the contract Community users of facilities would be kept informed as details are finalised.

If the decision is taken, some changes are likely to take place before the end of March as the Council has agreed to a phased approach to make the transfer more manageable for 1610.

The decision will be discussed by the Policies and Place Scrutiny Committee when it meets on 13 November. The report to the committee can be found on the Council’s website (http://democracy.somerset.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=184&MId=652&Ver=4).