Council's leisure centres could be taken over by charitable trust

Council's leisure centres could be taken over by charitable trust

Reporter:

Francis Batt

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Council's leisure centres could be taken over by charitable trust
Windsor Leisure Centre

Unease has been voiced over plans to hand control of the Royal Borough’s leisure centres to a charitable trust.

Staff at leisure centres in Windsor, Maidenhead and Sunningdale have all received letters saying that the idea is being explored.

The borough insists they will be fully consulted and their conditions of employment protected under nationally agreed safeguards. But West Windsor councillor Cynthia Endacott (Independent, Clewer North) is concerned.

She said: “My worry is that this could lead to staff being made redundant and volunteers relied on. Staff working for the Royal Borough feel enough uncertainty as it is, this could add fuel to the fire.”

It is understood about 400 staff would be affected by the change.

Royal Borough spokesman Anne Dackombe said this week there could be no guarantees staff structure would not change under a new system but pointed out this could happen even if the council retained control.

Under the proposals control of the leisure centres would be handed to a non-profit distributing organisation (NPDO), usually a charitable trust, that would run services on behalf of the council.

The borough says an NDPO would be able to apply for grants councils are not able to, such as Lottery funding, bringing more money into its leisure centres.

Tax savings such as rates rebates would also be available to charities. Services would still be paid for by the council, which the Advertiser understands would retain the buildings and still be responsible for infrastructure.

The council would expect part of the savings made under the new system to be reinvested in leisure centres to ensure they continue to meet the needs of users.

About 30 per cent of councils now run leisure facilities this way.

No decision has been made yet and the council’s cabinet will consider the issue in September.

Maidenhead Labour Party has criticised the move.

Campaign manager Pat McDonald urged the public to speak out and stop the centres, including The Magnet in Holmanleaze, moving away from 'democratic control'.

"These are facilities that generations have paid for," he said.

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