Flintshire leisure centres facing the axe

Reporter:

Lois Hough

PROPOSALS have been put forward to close three Flintshire leisure centres to the public and to axe more than 60 jobs, the Leader can exclusively reveal.

If an action plan by council chiefs is approved the sports centre at Connah’s Quay High School, at Castell Alun in Hope and at St David’s High School in Saltney will close to the public, but remain open for school use, .

Canteen staff at the centres in Holywell, Mold and Flint could be replaced by vending machines; the popular Swim Flintshire scheme could be scrapped; and the creche at Flint Pavilion could also close if the proposals for a major overhaul of leisure services are given the go-ahead.

Council bosses say the cuts are the only way to cancel out a massive overspend on leisure services in recent years.

Some staff will be redeployed to other leisure centres but most will be offered redundancy if plans are given the green light.

The Leader has learned of the plans ahead of crunch talks at County Hall on Thursday.

A confidential report, which has been shown to the Leader revealed:
- Cafés at Holywell, Mold and Flint leisure centres cost £222,793 a year to run, but make just £172,563.

Eleven canteen staff posts will be at risk to make way for vending machines.

- The creche at Flint Pavillion leisure centre had 902 visits last year.

It costs £12,300 a year to run but makes just £2,086.

Two workers will be axed if the creche is closed and parents will be urged to use creche facilities at Deeside Leisure Centre instead, which had 2,995 visits last year.

- Connah’s Quay, Hope and Saltney leisure centres collectively accounted for 6.6 per cent of visits to the nine leisure centres in the county.

They made just 3.6 percent of all income generated from all leisure centres.

Up to 24 permanent staff and 21 casual staff will be made redundant or redeployed and the centres will close to the public.

- The Swim Flintshire scheme to encourage talented swimmers costs £78,341 a year to run but makes just £17,693.

It is proposed to axe the role of swimming development officer and three posts that support the scheme.

- Four managers across leisure centres in the county will be replaced by one new post.

If the leisure centres shut then £188,593 will be freed up to tackle the £282,000 overspend made in the last year.

The dual-use leisure centres will however continue to be used by the associated secondary schools.

Councillors are being urged to make an early decision so that the cuts can be implemented before March 2011 – the next financial year.

If plans are approved, consultation with staff and trade unions will begin immediately.

Cllr Dennis Hutchinson, executive member for leisure services, said: “The lifelong learning overview and scrutiny committee will be considering a range of strategies to control expenditure and focus services on participation in sport.

“At the three small ‘dry-side’ centres at Connah’s Quay, Hope and Saltney, discussions will continue with the respective schools to operate as community focused centres as Hawarden High School and The Argoed, Mynydd Isa, currently do.”

See full story in the Leader

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