Edinburgh Leisure urges customers to lobby councillors after Evening News reveals sports centres and golf courses at risk of closure
Threat of £500,000 reduction in city's funding for sport
EDINBURGH Leisure bosses are asking customers to lobby councillors after the Evening News revealed proposed funding cuts could lead to the closure of sports centres and golf courses.
In a letter to card-holders, June Peebles, chief executive of the arms-length organisation, describes talk of closures as “scaremongering” - but then urges people to write to their elected representatives voicing their support for the venues.
Council chiefs, who expect to have to find up to £40 million worth of savings from their budget for 2021/22, are considering a range of proposals from officials, which include reducing Edinburgh Leisure’s funding by £500,000 a year.
The Evening News has seen a briefing note setting out the cuts plan and how it could mean the closure of three sports centres, “various” golf courses and the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena.
The document also says Edinburgh Leisure plans a four per cent increase in charges and will be urged to cut opening hours to save money.
The council’s proposal would reduce its annual £8.155m service payment to Edinburgh Leisure by £150,000 each year and also stop the £350,000 a year funding to cover inflation.
The note says: “There are a number of the sports facilities that are operating at a loss or with significant deficits. These could include: EICA, Ainslie Park sports centre, Tumbles indoor play, Gracemount sports centre, Jack Kane sports centre and various golf courses.
“The facilities would either become surplus and considered for disposal for capital gain or become the focus of community engagement or possible asset transfer.”
And it goes on: “In addition Edinburgh Leisure would be asked to undertake a review of opening hours across the city. The proposal is that Edinburgh Leisure prepare options to achieve savings by reducing opening hours of some facilities. The new opening hours would be introduced in April 2021.”
The document does not identify golf courses which could close. Edinburgh Leisure runs six courses across the Capital - Braid Hills, Carrick Knowe, Craigentinny, Portobello, Silverknowes and Wee Braids golf courses.
In a letter to customers, Ms Peebles says: “Any discussion at this point about venue closures is pure speculation and scaremongering. You will of course be advised of price changes and any changes to services as a result of the budget challenges.”
But she concludes: “In the meantime, please keep moving with us and perhaps you might even want to contact your local councillor to voice your support of the role Edinburgh Leisure venues and activity programmes play in enabling people and communities throughout Edinburgh to be active.”
The council is due to agree its budget on February 20, but because of Chancellor Sajid Javid’s decision to delay the UK budget until March 11 and the resulting uncertainty around how much the Scottish Government will receive from Westminster the council may have to revise its figures later.