Last gasp chance to save public use of school centres

Reporter:

Matt Jones

HOPES have been raised that the public use of leisure facilities at two high schools will be able to continue.

Castell Alun in Hope and St David’s High School, Saltney, backed by Saltney Town Council, are in discussions about the running of leisure centres on their patches.

It follows proposals put forward by Flintshire Council to close the two centres, along with Connah’s Quay Leisure Centre, to the public, but to keep them open for
school use.

But concerns remain over the fate of Connah’s Quay Leisure Centre after Connah’s Quay High School governors said they would not be in a position to take over responsibility for the leisure centre attached to their school.

Speaking after a Flintshire Council executive committee meeting, Connah’s Quay county councillor Bernie Attridge, a governor at Connah’s Quay High, said the school could not afford to take on the running of the centre.

“There is a petition with 1,000 names to make sure the centre stays open to the public,” he said. “There have been no assurances today.

There is no way whatsoever that the school can take on the leisure centre. My responsibility is for the education of the students who attend that school and that they have the best education, not to subsidise the leisure centre.

“That is what Flintshire Council should be doing. They support other leisure centres. They should continue to support Connah’s Quay.

“We are the biggest town in Flintshire.”

Proposals had been put forward to close the three centres to the public while keeping them open for school use, to axe more than 60 jobs, to close the crèche at Flint Pavilion and to scrap the elite swimmers programme.

They were met with widespread criticism which led to a further consultation.

Savings of more than £400,000 will now be made as the crèche at Flint will close at the end of the financial year and a revised tariff at leisure centres will come into effect in January.

But the county’s elite swimming programme has been saved after councillors approved cost-saving measures.

Officers still hope to reach an agreement with governors of high schools at Connah’s Quay, Hope and Saltney to keep the leisure centres open out-of-school hours.

Ian Budd, Flintshire Council’s director of Lifelong Learning, said: “The county enjoys a high level of facilities in relation to its population. The level of visits to centres is also high in relation to other authorities.

“The physical environment in too many facilities is dated. Given changes to availability of revenue and capital funding, we know the status quo is not sustainable.

“I’d like to thank the many service users, partner organisations and staff who have contributed their thoughts and ideas during the consultation so far.

“Two petitions were submitted to save Hope Sports Centre, one was to save Saltney Leisure Centre and one was to save Connah’s Quay Leisure Centre.

“Two of the three governing bodies have indicated a willingness to complete a Transfer of Control or Service Level Agreement.

“The report sets out an approach to reducing operating costs at the three centres and completing discussions with local partners to finalise Transfer of Control Agreements or alternative governance models prior to the start of the next financial year.

“The report's recommendations provide an opportunity for all involved to work together to put provision at the centres on a legal sustainable basis for the future.”

A spokesman for Flintshire Council said the report was an update document requested by members of the executive following the consultation exercise with the public and service users.

l COMMUNITY councillors in Hope have been looking at ways of retaining public use leisure facilities at Castell Alun High School.

They have been told the main issue is whether an agreement can be reached with the governing body to keep the premises open to the public outside school hours.

They have written to the county council asking if meetings can be convened with other town and community councils to see if they might be willing to offer financial support to threatened sports facilities for the benefit of their residents.

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