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Leisure services for charitable trust?

PUBLISHED: 22:03 24 February 2003 | UPDATED: 16:20 24 February 2010

COUNCILLORS in Colchester last night agreed that handing over control of its leisure services to a charitable trust could be the best way to provide them in the future.

COUNCILLORS in Colchester last night agreed that handing over control of its leisure services to a charitable trust could be the best way to provide them in the future.

At a meeting of the Best Value review panel members heard that the move could not only see large savings being made – in the face of imminent budget cuts – but also offer other advantages in terms of attracting external funding.

They recommended that the ruling cabinet now pass the matter over to outside consultants to rigorously test cost assumptions made in a report prepared by Keith Nicholson, the council's head of leisure services.

If complex figures stack up about the impact on other services, the council could relinquish its control of the department's functions and its employees to a separate body outside the direct control of the town hall.

The borough would retain its influence by virtue of the fact it would still own all its properties – such as its sports centre, Leisure World - and be the trust's main source of funds.

Meanwhile, by operating an arm's length principle, it would avoid paying hefty business rates which currently run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.

After the Best Value review panel considered the matter, chairman Don Quinn voiced his hostility to what he insisted was the “obnoxious” truth of the matter , the implementation of budget cuts.

“I am certainly not blaming our officers, but I find it terrible that we are sitting here in 2003 and talking about cuts in something so vital as leisure services,” he told the meeting.


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