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£2m investment earmarked for Wirral leisure centres
Wirral leisure centres look set to be given a multi-million pound revamp in a strategy designed to increase income.
An investment of £2m will be shared between West Kirby Concourse, Guinea Gap at Seacombe and Birkenhead’s Europa Pools over the next 18 months.
The money primarily will be used to improve fitness programmes and catering facilities.
The move follows a major review of the council’s leisure services carried out by consultancy company V4, and is seen as a way of generating more income for the authority as it aims to reduce spending by £109m over the next three years.
The consultants’ examination found that the savings needed to be made cannot be achieved without a major reshaping of services.
A report by strategic director Clare Fish to council cabinet presents a series of options for the future.
Among them is “outsourcing” leisure centres to the private sector, placing them under the ownership of community trusts, or keeping them in-house, at least for the next 12-to-18 months – the option recommended by Ms Fish.
Her report says the authority is spending far more on its leisure facilities than the national average, and states that “in the current financial climate...it is essential for the council to be able to measure the cost and impact of leisure services effectively.”
It goes on to say leisure centre staff need to have a sharper focus on devising ways to improve income, and that the service must become much more innovative and responsive.
Plans are also in place to cut the cost of staffing by £500,000 through introducing flexible working hours and reducing ‘back office’ management structures.
However, the marketing budget for the centres is to be doubled to around £65,000 per year.
When the so-called “transformation programme” had been completed, councillors will need to make a decision on the long-term future of the facilities.
Ms Fish said financial problems presently facing the authority were extremely challenging, but added: “We are concerned and interested in the health and well-being of local people. We want to attract people of all ages to use our leisure facilities.”
The cabinet will be asked to approve the investment programme when it meets next Thursday.
Councillor Chris Meaden, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said:
"The review confirmed that changes need to be made to make our Sport and Recreation services more efficient and better meet the needs of local people.
"The findings present us with some challenges, but also provide a fantastic opportunity to improve the important leisure services and facilities that are valued by Wirral residents."
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