Edinburgh Leisure to take over school gyms, pools

School gym halls will be open to the public. Picture: Greg Macvean
School gym halls will be open to the public. Picture: Greg Macvean
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SCHOOL sports facilities are to be opened to the public after council chiefs said they were going to press ahead with plans to hand them over to arms-length recreation body Edinburgh Leisure.

They say the move will open up more gym halls and swimming pools to the community and save the council £2 million over six years in admin costs.

I’ve built up this business over 20 years, I have 95 staff, I pay well above the living wage, and I’m not about to see them losing their jobs just because Edinburgh Leisure want to muscle in.

Gail Smith

Council leader Andrew Burns said there would be no reduction in pupils’ access. But he said: “It would streamline the management of these facilities and expand their use and availability to a wider audience.

“There are currently some schools sitting with sports facilities unused in the evenings.”

How much people will be charged is still being worked out. But Cllr Burns said Edinburgh Leisure would not “rack prices up”.

However, the plans are being fiercely opposed by private swimming teachers who claim they would be forced out of slots they have used for years.

Gail Smith of Swim Easy, which runs out-of-hours lessons in pools at Braidburn School, the Royal High, Forrester, Craigroyston and James Gillespie’s, said: “The only way they can make it work is by kicking us out and hoping they will take all our customers.

“I’ve built up this business over 20 years, I have 95 staff, I pay well above the living wage, and I’m not about to see them losing their jobs just because Edinburgh Leisure want to muscle in.”

Ms Smith claimed the council had promised that businesses like hers and sports clubs which use school facilities would be involved as the plans were developed and there would be a “mixed economy” of provision with space for private companies to give lessons.

But she said: “We’ve had one meeting with the council and the Edinburgh Leisure chief executive and they could tell us nothing.”

Portobello, Gillespie’s and Liberton would have their facilities transferred in the first phase before the end of this year, followed by Wester Hailes and Broughton in January 2017 and all the remaining schools in August 2017.

But a report to councillors next week warns projected savings of £500,000 a year will not come through for the first two years.

Green schools spokeswoman Melanie Main said: “Local people and clubs who use school sports facilities are faced with a bewildering range of different charges and rules so if that can all be streamlined by bringing school facilities within the management of Edinburgh Leisure that’s certainly good news.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com