Continuing pressure to find budget savings means Derbyshire Dales District Council is reviewing its leisure service, including the four leisure centres in Ashbourne, Bakewell, Matlock and Wirksworth.
Next Thursday (2 June) councillors will hear an update on the discretionary leisure service as part of an ongoing review that has already saved £111,500 through efficiencies.
The four leisure centres currently are subsidised to the tune of around £1.3-million a year and the leisure review is examining ways to further reduce the burden to Council Tax payers by exploring the feasibility of alternative delivery methods. But all options currently on the table envisage a future for each of the four leisure centres and the council's sports development unit.
Successive central government grant cuts - 21% this year - mean the District Council has to find additional savings of £0.73 million in the next five years.
Through workshop sessions councillors have already identified two preferred options from a list of five to come out of the review process. A report to next week’s Community & Environment Committee makes it clear that it is not certain that all four leisure centres will stay within local authority control.
Referring to the recent councillors' workshop, the report states:
"Although it was clear most members wished to retain all four leisure centres and the sports development team, given the District Council's financial position, this option was considered as not sustainable."
The report suggests the most appropriate options could be to either outsource the four centres and retain sports development in-house, or examine the possibility of handing the Bakewell and Wirksworth centres into local community control while retaining Arc Leisure Matlock and Ashbourne Leisure Centre, together with the sports development team.
Consultants are currently collating greater detail on the financial and service benefits of both options, reflecting 2015/16 year-end figures, as well as undergoing exploratory work into the possibility of Community Asset Transfers for Bakewell Swimming Pool and Wirksworth Leisure Centre.
Councillors are not expected to agree any action at this early stage, but consultation will continue with relevant parties throughout the summer ahead of a report to a full meeting of the District Council towards the end of the year.
District Council Leader Councillor Lewis Rose OBE said:
"At this stage we must keep an open mind on the future ownership of our leisure centres and the task right now is to consider the feasibility of the two preferred options. However, we make no apology for continuing to review every single one of our services on a rolling basis to make them as efficient and cost-effective as possible.
"Already we have found new ways of doing things differently - and successfully - sometimes with partners or as shared services. The fact is however that we are now scraping the barrel in terms of finding further savings that won't impact on the services we provide for the people of the Derbyshire Dales. That’s why we have made it very clear that we cannot rule out the possibility of having to make potentially unpopular and radical decisions sometime soon."
To find savings and efficiencies while maintaining front line services to residents, all District Council services are being reviewed as part of a rolling programme that asks three questions:
- Does the service need to be provided at all?
- Does the service need to be provided by the District Council or could it be provided by someone else, and
- What level of service is needed?