Leisure Resources in Cornwall

Posted on: 6th October 2015

Leisure Resources in Cornwall are causing public debate and divided opinions. I attended a briefing for Cornwall Councillors this week and thought I would share some key information.

The starting point for these changes and changes to many loved local services are 3 things

  1. A current contract is coming to an end;
  2. The Government is continuing to cut local council funding hard when, in Cornwall we never had a fair funding deal to start off with and the prospect is that by 2017 we will struggle to fund much beyond what Council’s have to do and precious little of what we like or want to fund/ support;
  3. Legacy issues arising from decisions taken by former District Councils, the former County Council and the previous Conservative/ Independent led administration (2009 – 2013) of Cornwall Council.

Historically, Leisure Centres in Cornwall have suffered from short term funding cycles so a backlog of maintenance to the tune of £18m has accumulated over time. Some of that backlog is cosmetic but other matters can lead to more serious failures, including safety issues. It was this situation that caused concern to Falmouth residents and set the rumour mill going that there were plans to close the centre. The issue was a safety one that required a significant amount of money to resolve and if not resolved could have forced the temporary closure. There were no plans to close the leisure centre and the money was found in time to prevent the temporary closure.

The current contract with Tempest Leisure has problems for Cornwall Council and Tempest in terms of costs and opportunities to increase income. To extend that contract for a further 5 years, beyond 2017, which some people feel should happen, can only be done on the same terms that are unsatisfactory to both parties. The Council has no long term funding to allocate to leisure services so they have to become cost neutral to the Council. Legal advice was that, to keep them open, we need to go to other leisure companies and, offering the freehold of the buildings find the best deal for Cornwall to run them. All companies, many not for profit, that are considering taking over Cornwall’s Leisure facilities, are leisure companies, not development companies and conditions will be put on any transfer to ensure they cannot be sold for a profit or turned into a non-leisure facility without public consultation.

There are 15 Leisure facilities across Cornwall some with, some without swimming pools that Cornwall Council is asking companies to put forward a business case for of how they would run them and what loan facilities or limited ongoing revenue support they might require, in the early years of transfer. Locally, Penzance and Carn Brea Leisure Centres are both outside of this deal as they have legacy issues that mean they cannot be transferred.

There will be further briefings as offers are developed and considered from Leisure companies.