Consultants in £92k review into city leisure

Facilities at sports centres and schools are being examined to see if they can be used more efficiently. Pictue Lesley Martin
Facilities at sports centres and schools are being examined to see if they can be used more efficiently. Pictue Lesley Martin
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A COMPREHENSIVE review of council leisure facilities in the Capital has been ordered in a bid to ensure those in areas of greatest social need are properly provided for.

Consultants have been appointed at a cost of £92,000 to undertake the review which will cover swimming pools, sports centres and other facilities run by the council’s arms-length trust Edinburgh Leisure, as well as city schools’ pools and gym provision.

Council chiefs hope the upsurge in public interest in sport generated by the Commonwealth Games will help give a boost to the review.

Recommendations are expected within a year.

City council leisure convener Richard Lewis said: “This is an attempt to look at all our sports facilities across the board – both Edinburgh Leisure and schools which are open to the community – particularly at a time of challenging budgets, to see if there are economies that can be made and whether we are using facilities as extensively as possible.”

The consultants will map the operating costs of facilities, identify those which are underused and where there is duplication. They will be asked to recommend how to increase usage and whether any facilities should close or be found an alternative use.

Councillor Lewis said some councils already made school sports facilities available to the public after hours.

He said: “Things have evolved differently in different schools.”

He added that facilities at Queensferry High were taken over by Edinburgh Leisure after 6pm, community schools had open access as part of their ethos, but other schools had no tradition of being open to the community.

Up until now, there had been little co-ordination.

He said: “My old school, James Gillespie’s, has a swimming pool but just about 800ft away are Warrender Baths. These are two well-used council-owned facilities run by different organisations. What would be the best way to operate that?”
He said one option might be to cater more for clubs at the school pool and use the baths so individuals could pay to swim.

He added: “Customers don’t care which part of the council is delivering the service, so long as it is efficient and high quality. Hopefully, we will be able to establish one website for booking facilities, which would lead you to the closest one, and the charges will all be 
standardised. At the moment you have to know what facilities the school has, approach the individual school and negotiate a rate.”

He said by targeting hard-to-reach groups and people who were inactive, the review could also help tackle obesity and save the NHS money.