Call for council to be 'bold and brave' on leisure

By Ian Dipple Thursday 26 June 2014 Updated: 27/06 09:41

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Buy photos » To this - The £6.5million revamped Abbey Stadium is enjoying its first full week opening to the public. Picture by Marcus Mingins 0712017MMR6

A PROPOSAL to give up control of running services such as the Palace Theatre and Abbey Stadium is to be investigated further.

Members of Redditch Borough Council's decision-making executive committee have agreed to explore the idea of creating or contracting a leisure trust to run a raft of services such as leisure centres and Forge Mill Needle Museum.

It follows a report by a panel of councillors which recommended the move in order to secure the long-term future of the Abbey Stadium.

As the Standard reported last week the centre, which in 2012 underwent a £6.5million revamp to include a swimming pool and refurbished gym, is losing members under increased competition and the council is unlikely to be able to afford the future investment needed to ensure its survival.

A leisure trust is an independent organisation which would run the centre and other services on behalf of the council but have more freedom to secure investment, drive down costs and better promote what was on offer.

Coun Phil Mould, responsible for leisure on the council, told a meeting on Tuesday (June 24) the Abbey Stadium alone would not be able to sustain a leisure trust but he did not object to the idea.

"I would be loathe to put the Abbey Stadium in as a stand-alone trust. It is the jewell in the crown and you don't give the jewell in the crown away in a trust and keep the lesser things, we want a better package."

Deputy leader Greg Chance added they needed to explore what could be included in any organisation but any option would have to protect existing services.

"We need to make sure we take the opportunity to get this right and we can save money and hopefully improve the service we provide. We can only defend public services if it is well delivered," he said.

"We need to be bold and brave if we are going to make progress."

But Coun Carole Gandy, who chaired the review panel, also appealed to council chiefs to increase the promotion of the centre now rather than wait for a final decision on the creation of a trust.

"We really do believe there's a need to take the competition out there seriously and as a council we have got to address it, otherwise a first class centre for people in Redditch will not survive as there's just so many of them."

A report detailing the options for a leisure trust is expected to be considered by the executive committee at a later date.

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