Fulwood and West View leisure centres are likely to no longer be owned and operated by Preston City Council within the next year.Advertisement
The council has revealed it is preparing to offload the two centres, along with its leisure services, to an alternative provider.
The swimming pools and leisure centres are subsidised by the taxpayer at a cost of £1m-a-year and the city council says it has no statutory duty to provide the service.
A report to councillors outlines how the Town Hall can no longer afford to run what it brands a ‘choice service’. It also shows how by 2020 offloading the leisure centres would save the city council £750,000-a-year.
Staff at the leisure centres are understood to have been briefed that a privately operated firm, with a community focus, are the front-runners to be contracted to run the centres and the ownership of the centres transferred to these firms – similar to the deals struck for the Guild Hall and Preston Bus Station.
Read more: Happy 40th birthday to Fulwood Leisure Centre
The report, called Achieving Preston’s Priorities, states “officers are investigating the potential for alternative service delivery providers for leisure services and options for shared services.
“Budget Working Group has also tasked officers with working up a business case to look at the feasibility of setting up a trading company. The Council is able to charge for discretionary services as long as it only recovers its costs. A trading company would allow the provision of services with the ultimate aim of making a profit; however initial set up costs and market factors will need to be considered.”
The council is facing competition from private gyms, and increasing numbers of 24-hour discount gyms and leisure services in Preston.
Chief executive of the city council Lorraine Norris said: “At the moment, all options are being considered. We have significant savings to make and to achieve this we have to take time to seriously consider how we move forward and if there are alternative ways of working and providing services that will enable us to make that saving.
“Our elected Councillors will make the final decisions, but officers are working closely with them to ensure they have all the necessary information.”
Read more: How the price of going to a fitness class or a swim in Preston is increasing
The report is due to be discussed at a meeting of full council on Thursday 20 October.
The city council is due to see its central government funding drop to nearly zero by 2020.
What do you think the future of the leisure centres is? Do you use them? Let us know your views in the comments below