Edinburgh Leisure told to cut costs ‘imaginatively’

Edinburgh Leisure has been told to make cuts. Picture: Lesley Martin

Edinburgh Leisure has been told to make cuts. Picture: Lesley Martin

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EDINBURGH Leisure bosses have been told to look at “imaginative” ways of reducing costs without axing venues and jobs.

The man in charge of the body which runs the Capital’s public leisure centres has warned a proposed £2.1 million cut in his budget will lead to “multiple” closures.

But council chiefs insist there are no proposals to shut venues and called on directors at the not-for-profit body to explore alternative avenues for achieving savings.

We revealed on Monday how as many as eight sports centres face the axe amid plans to slash Edinburgh Leisure’s funding by more than a fifth over the next three years.

The cuts are part of a wider push to plug a £67m gap in the Capital’s finances by 2017-18.

City leader Councillor Andrew Burns said: “Since becoming a trust in 1998, Edinburgh Leisure has done much to improve the delivery of sport and leisure in the city – consistently improving their annual turnover and, with that, reducing their reliance on council grant funding – and we recognise the enormous value the venues and services bring to communities across the city.

“We believe this model can continue to be successful and would expect their board to imaginatively explore and exhaust all possibilities around improving efficiency and reducing costs in the years ahead – while maintaining their level of service as far as possible.”

But union bosses have joined Edinburgh Leisure directors to issue fresh warnings that the proposed budget cuts cannot be absorbed without putting venues and services at risk.

It is also thought the company’s 850-strong workforce will be reduced by at least 100 if the plans are implemented.

John Comiskey, Edinburgh Leisure chief executive, said: “If there are ways to mitigate the impact on customers we will explore those ruthlessly, but realistically there will be a significant impact on our ability to deliver services.

“Whilst we can all hope for the best, we do need to build plans that balance our books based on what we know and at the moment, absorbing the 22 per cent funding reductions will likely require the withdrawal from multiple venues and services.”

The warnings were echoed by John Stevenson, president of the Unison City of Edinburgh branch, which counts a significant number of Edinburgh Leisure employees as members.

He said: “[Edinburgh Leisure] has just gone through a job evaluation exercise, which saved them a lot of money and the union’s view is that all of the salami-slicing is over and we are now into the loss of facilities.

“The council has a ‘no compulsory redundancy’ agreement and we would expect them to extend that to Edinburgh Leisure, which is their arms-length organisation.”

johnpaul.holden@edinburghnews.com

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