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Leisure centres may be sold off
LEISURE centres in Knutsford and Holmes Chapel could be sold to a private firm or taken over by a charitable trust in a move that borough council chiefs believe will help cut costs.
Cheshire East Council revealed its plans for the borough’s 15 leisure centres at a meeting of its cabinet on Monday.
Councillors agreed to pay consultants £30,000 to review the future of its centres, which includes Knutsford’s in Westfield Drive and Holmes Chapel’s in Selkirk Drive.
Councils across the country – including neighbouring Cheshire West and Chester – have already transferred their leisure centres to charitable trusts.
Moving the centre to a trust would mean it would not be charged VAT and business rates but the council would still be responsible for some repairs.
But some users across the country have voiced fears that the move to a trust or private sector owner would result in price rises.
Latest figures released by the council show the authority spent £7.89 million on running the facilities last year and generated an income of £5.85 million, with council tax payers currently subsidising the service by more than £2 million each year.
A report was considered by cabinet members who revealed changes could be brought in as early as December.
The report said: “There is a need to achieve best value for the services we provide and reduce net operating costs wherever possible. The review of leisure services and the early establishment of the most appropriate operating model will help to achieve this.
“The selected consultant will look in detail at the options currently available to the council and will set out the advantages and disadvantages of each model.
“The final report will include the likely cost and benefits of establishing a new model and an implementation plan for the preferred option.
“It is essential that whichever delivery model is established, a detailed performance regime will be needed to ensure services are focused on council priorities with any ‘grant aid’ (or reducing subsidy) explicitly linked to the achievement of these outcomes.”
The Knutsford centre has an artificial pitch, recently- renovated fitness suite and studio, a squash court, a swimming pool and sports hall.
The Holmes Chapel centre has a fitness suite and sports hall.
What do you think about the council’s plans for Knutsford's and Holmes Chapel's leisure centre? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.