East Leeds: Centre handover plan is scrapped

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Council bosses have abandoned plans to hand the running of a Leeds leisure centre to a trust as part of proposals to meet tough budget targets.

The council has over the past 18 months been in negotiations about handing the management of Garforth Leisure Centre to the Schools Partnership Trust (SPT), under the community asset transfer (CAT) policy.

The transfer was proposed as part of the 2011-12 budget and followed a review which showed the centre was operating at a loss of £227,000 a year.

Since then its weekly opening hours have been cut from 103 to 58.5 and the latest figures indicate it now operating at a near break-even point.

And now the council’s executive board has agreed the centre should remain under council control with its current hours of opening maintained.

Talks will continue with the trust and any other parties that may want to use the centre beyond its existing hours.

Coun Adam Ogilvie, executive member for leisure, said that by organising opening hours around the times people most wanted to use the centre its financial position had improved.

He added: “The Garforth proposal was one of the first community asset transfers to be considered against the background of the budget. We are learning more about community asset transfer.

“This one has not come off but we have found a way of continuing with 58.5 hours.”

Coun John Procter (Con, Wetherby) hit out at the time taken to reach the decision.

He said: “I informed officers a year ago that the SPT had been clear and stated they could not and would not take on a loss-making public service. Clearly this transfer was never going to happen and it has taken the Labour administration a year to admit that I was right.

“If we are serious about looking at organisations other than the council running services we need to look imaginatively at how we can support communities and groups to run assets.”

Coun Mark Dobson (Lab, Garforth and Swillington) said: “This is positive news and gives people a degree of certainty about the centre.”

Millennium Square and Leeds Civic Hall, Leeds City Centre.

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