Leeds: Hours boost revealed for Garforth Squash and Leisure Centre

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A REDUCTION in opening times at Garforth Squash and Leisure Centre will not be as drastic as originally feared, it emerged today.

As previously reported by the Yorkshire Evening Post, the centre’s hours were due to be slashed from 98 to 31 a week from April 1 as the city council tries to cut costs.

Now, though, extra funding has been secured from the council’s east outer area committee that means the centre will be staying open for just over 58 hours a week.

Coun Mark Dobson (Lab, Garforth & Swillington) said: “I am delighted. The plan to reduce hours at the leisure centre was not something we wanted to happen and we have fought hard to find a way to reduce the impact.”

News of the funding boost comes as the council’s executive board prepares to discuss longer-term proposals for the centre.

Under a plan that will be considered by the board next Wednesday, responsibility for the management and maintenance of the site would be transferred from the council to the Leeds-based School Partnership Trust (SPT).

The SPT, an educational charity that governs Garforth Academy and other local schools, would lease the centre from the council at a peppercorn rent.

Its facilities would then be shared between pupils at the SPT’s schools and the rest of the community.

A report to next Wednesday’s meeting describes peak school use and community use times as “complementary”.

It is hoped that the centre would switch back to full operational hours following any handover to the SPT.

The forthcoming shift to reduced opening is part of the Labour-run council’s bid to make savings of £90m during 2011-12.

Conservative MP Alec Shelbrooke, whose Elmet & Rothwell constituency includes Garforth, today described the east outer area committee funding deal as a “poor political stunt”.

He said: “If this money had been identified beforehand it would have saved a lot of unrest among residents.”

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