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Time running out to save Wrexham leisure centre

Published date: 06 February 2014 |
Published by: Charlie Croasdale
Read more articles by Charlie Croasdale


 

A COMMUNITY has less than three months to produce a £500,000-a-year rescue plan and prevent bulldozers demolishing Plas Madoc Leisure Centre.

Recommendations to “close, decommission and demolish” the Acrefair facility – unless a community-based social enterprise can be found by April 30 to take it over – are outlined in Wrexham Council’s leisure review to go before the authority’s executive board for a final decision next week.

But councillors confirmed a social enterprise would receive no financial backing from the council, meaning the cost of running the £554,000-a-year facility would have to be met privately.

It comes despite the report noting “wholesale opposition” to the plans during the public consultation period and follows a vociferous protest outside the Guildhall by campaigners on Tuesday.

The idea for a community-led social-enterprise taking over the centre was raised by Clwyd South AM Ken Skates during talks with council chiefs.

Under the leisure review proposals, if a community group cannot take over Plas Madoc by the April 30 deadline, some of the money raised from the sale of the site will be reinvested into a “reduced community facility”. But it was stressed this would “not amount to a replacement leisure centre or gym”.

The closure of Waterworld and the need to identify options for funding a replacement facility in Wrexham are also recommended for approval in the report to the executive board, seen by the Leader.

The report further recommends transferring the management of the council’s leisure services to a Leisure Trust, which it estimates will save £535,000 annually.

The recommendations will be subject of a vote at a meeting of the executive board on Tuesday.

The report states there have been more than 2,000 representations from the public during the consultation, of which 96 per cent were users of Plas Madoc, and added the closure of the facility had been met with “wholesale opposition”.

Plas Madoc is described in the report as a “valued resource that contributes towards health and wellbeing”. It is seen as a focal point for the “deprived community” of the Acrefair area.

Cllr David Griffiths, lead member for health and adult social care, said the council was “handing an opportunity” to the community, but added failure to agree on a transfer would result in the closure of the facility within the next financial year.

“I’ve been pleased to read how passionately people feel about their leisure facilities”, he said.

“I’d have been more concerned if I hadn’t received anything back. However, we can’t maintain the running costs of Plas Madoc in line with the substantial savings we have to find as a result of the cuts.

“I am disabled myself and I know how much the centre means to people, but I cannot allow my heart to rule over my head on this one.

“We are handing an opportunity to the people of Plas Madoc to explore the possibility of a social enterprise to take over the running of Plas Madoc, but we must stress there will be no funding for this from the council.

“I’ll be instructing our officers to enter into discussions immediately.”

Mr Skates said: “I’ve been keen throughout this whole process to get everyone together, all parties and stakeholders, in order to explore every conceivable option.

“I am determined to do all I can to bring people together in order to find a viable and sustainable future for Plas Madoc.

“I would urge members of other political parties and groups to avoid squabbling and political point-scoring and work with me in the interest of the community.”

A replacement for Waterworld in Wrexham town could be built by borrowing £11.9 million, resulting in a net cost to the council of £743,000 per year. The report adds without a replacement facility the county’s leisure service would be “seriously eroded”.

But the report also states this would bring the council £711,000 short of savings targeted over two years as part of the 2014-15 budget, adding a decision on Waterworld’s replacement “would be easier to make” if alternative sources of funding were found.

The council also states although leisure services are “highly valued”, their need must be considered in the context of budget pressures on services such as education and social care.

Cllr Griffiths said a replacement facility in Wrexham would offer a walk-in pool floor for disabled users, based on the current flooring at Plas Madoc.

Cllr Neil Rogers, leader of the council, hit back at critics of the report, saying: “If people think the report is flawed they can tell us. We are happy to meet with and speak to people who have concerns.

“These are tough decisions but we don’t have the financial muscle to carry out the maintenance or continue to run Plas Madoc or Waterworld.”

For more news from across the region visit newsnorthwales.co.uk

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  1. Posted by: Y Ffin at 21:54 on 06 February 2014 Report

    WCBC are going to have to pay out even more in social care, if they create a situation where there are fewer opportunities for adults and the elderly to adopt healthy lifestyles and keep active. There will also be educational and social consequences if they reduce the opportunities for young people to take part in team and individual sports. MOney will be saved in the short term, but over the medium term the bills will be flying through the letterbox of the Guildhall and the wider community.

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