Sport centre closures ‘likely’ next year

Ccentres where youngsters enjoy sessions in a variety of sports are under threat. Picture: Getty
Ccentres where youngsters enjoy sessions in a variety of sports are under threat. Picture: Getty
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PUBLIC sports centres in the Capital are set to be closed from as early as next year amid swingeing budget cuts, union leaders have claimed.

The warning comes after councillors approved the first phase of a cut to arms-length body Edinburgh Leisure as part of an ongoing reduction which will slice more than £2 million from its annual grant by 2017-18.

We revealed last year how the unprecedented cull could see up to eight sports facilities close across the city.

Under-threat venues are thought to include leisure centres at Ainslie Park and Gracemount, Carrick Knowe Golf Course, several bowling greens and Dalry Swimming Pool.

The city council and Edinburgh Leisure have issued assurances that there will be no closures during the 2015-16 financial period and said these could be avoided completely through a management overhaul. But a finance report published shortly before approval of the 2015-16 budget has underlined the risk that the scale of the spending cut will make it “likely” some centres may be shut.

And bosses at Unison said there were fears the axe would fall quickly from next April.

John Stevenson, of the Unison City of Edinburgh branch, said: “Our members are saying we’ve been assured there will be no closures [this year] but that they might follow thereafter in 2016.

“We are obviously concerned but these things are going to happen with the level of cuts local government is facing. We will resist the cuts.

“When the council made it an arms-length organisation, they were very clear that it would be council-owned and run, and they have to take responsibility.”

Unison’s fears have been echoed by sports club managers who use Edinburgh Leisure facilities.

Mark Richardson, secretary for Kirkliston and South Queensferry FC, which uses Kirkliston leisure centre, said: “I don’t think a reorganisation will off-set the payment reduction in the short term, maybe in the long term. The threat of closure is still very real.”

June Peebles, Edinburgh Leisure interim chief executive, said: “We are acutely aware of the financial challenges in 2016-17 and beyond, therefore we continue to work closely with our council partners to explore how we meet these challenges.

“We are committed to ensuring the people of Edinburgh get active and stay active for many years to come.”

Councillor Richard Lewis, Edinburgh’s Culture and Sport Convener, said: “As set out in our budget on February 12, no sports facilities will close in the coming financial year.

“We continue to work closely with the Board of Edinburgh Leisure to explore new ways of delivering services, which will mitigate against the impact of future budget savings.”

johnpaul.holden@edinburghnews.com