Golf course and leisure centre saved

some nursery pupils are set to enjoy free swimming classes
some nursery pupils are set to enjoy free swimming classes
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COUNCIL chiefs are set to plough nearly £900,000 into Edinburgh Leisure to prevent the closure of two major sports facilities and to roll out a string of new youth projects.

Extra funds will be given to the local authority sports body to keep open Portobello Golf Course and Kirkliston Leisure Centre, which have been at risk.

Golfers who use the Portobello course have cause for celebration

Golfers who use the Portobello course have cause for celebration

The cash stems from a £26 million surprise windfall in this year’s budget.

Around £300,000 will go towards keeping the Portobello and Kirkliston sites open.

Other major investments include free swimming classes for selected nursery pupils and secondary pupils with disabilities, along with an activity scheme for over-65s.

The proposals from the administration will go before councillors at today’s budget meeting.

Kirkliston Leisure Centre protesters

Kirkliston Leisure Centre protesters

Yesterday, the Evening News revealed that extra funding included £4m to ease the repairs backlog at crumbling schools across the Capital, and £1.5m extra for home help and care homes, among other projects.

Council leader Jenny Dawe said: “We had a very useful discussion with John Comiskey, chief executive of Edinburgh Leisure, and asked what impact it would have if we increased their grant and he listed what he would be able to do with that.”

She said that £300,000 would go to towards preventing some “difficult measures” he was going to have to introduce, potentially including the closure of Portobello Golf Course and Kirkliston Leisure Centre, as well as price increases and a reduction of youth development services, while £200,000 would go towards activities for the over-65s, £100,000 for positive destinations for school-leavers, and £140,000 for a programme called Looked After And Active for children in care.

Others measures included £50,000 for a programme for young people with disabilities, and £100,000 for free swimming for children in selected nurseries.

Leisure chiefs hope the Jump In project will see 500 nursery pupils and S1-S6 pupils with additional needs increase their physical activity, develop skills and show more confidence in the water.

With the High Flyers project council chiefs intend to establish four multi-sport programmes, at Craiglockhart, Gracemount, Meadowbank and Ainslie Park in Pilton for 200 children with disabilities.

Inspired by the legacy of the 2012 Paralympics, the programme will work to help mainstream sport clubs such as football, rugby and hockey to accommodate those with disabilities. Councillor Dawe added: “They all seem to be very worthwhile projects and that is money we see as ongoing; not just for one year but a minimum of two years and preferably three years.”

When asked why the money won’t go towards reducing charges, which have risen recently, Cllr Dawe added: “At the end of the day it is a decision for Edinburgh Leisure to make and we did have a discussion about that but they felt their fee structure was still very favourable and did not see that as being a priority. ”

Edinburgh Leisure chief executive John Comiskey said: “Edinburgh Leisure are delighted at the prospect of this proposed level of additional funding, which we hope will be agreed by the city council today.

“It will not only protect our existing services but will also enable us to develop and roll out a range of new programmes targeting several priority customer groups including older adults, young people in care and those with special needs.”

The extra funds have come from a £20m surplus in the council budget which comes from a Scottish Government pledge that no local authority’s funding will fall below 85 per cent of the Scottish average per head of population. A further £5.9m has come from raiding a series of “assigned reserves”.

The £26m also includes £11m to improve the “in-house” services which councillors agreed to save last month, instead of outsourcing work to private companies.