A CONSULTATION has been launched into the future of Knutsford and Holmes Chapel leisure centres.

As part of Cheshire East Council’s move towards becoming a ‘Strategic Council’, the authority told the Guardian it is exploring new ways of delivering its leisure services to ensure they remain sustainable in the future and offer residents the best value for money.

Bosses have said this is designed to ‘reduce waste and duplication, drive down costs and represent better value for residents’.

Cheshire East invests £9 million annually in its leisure provision, but is looking to reduce that figure for the tax payer.

It has come up with options for the future, which include the formation of a separate legal entity (arms-length company); tender services to the private sector or existing trust; formation of a charitable trust and transferring elements of the service to another local provider such as town or parish councils.

Cr Michael Jones, leader of Cheshire East Council, said leisure services were important to communities and he wanted to get residents’ views on how to improve them.

“Research shows that one well-established way of delivering these services, popular with other local authorities, is that of a charitable trust,” he said.

“The health and adult social care policy development group also gave their support for the trust model, pending full consultation. They also wished to explore the future role of town and parish councils in delivering some services.

“Any new organisation would acquire new sites, including the planned investment of £13 million in Crewe’s new lifestyle centre.

“However, we want to hear what residents think about this, and I would encourage them to go online and fill in the questionnaire.”

Clr Janet Clowes, cabinet member in charge of health and adult social care, added: “We realise that leisure services play an important role in keeping our communities fit and healthy, ensuring people live well for longer.

“This is especially important at a time when local authorities are taking on responsibility for public health.

“We are confident that a third party organisation would be able to deliver leisure services in a more efficient and targeted way, leading to improved services that will also increase health benefits.”

The Knutsford centre has an artificial pitch, recently-renovated fitness suite and studio, a squash court, a swimming pool and sports hall, while the Holmes Chapel centre has a fitness suite and sports hall.