By Joshua Robinson –
Following a cabinet meeting on 26 September, it was agreed that Kirklees Council would consult the public and other stakeholders about the future of leisure centres in Kirklees.
Challenges facing leisure centres in Kirklees
The economic situation in the UK is having a significant impact on local councils. Meaning more of the council budgets are being for legally required and other essential front-line services. This has led to the council making concessions on the ongoing provision of other services such as sport and leisure.
In addition, the leisure industry was hit hard during the Pandemic, with pools and sports centres closing for significant periods and bringing in no income.
Aware of this situation, the council provided additional financial support to the leisure centre operator, Kirklees Active Leisure (KAL), a local charitable, not-for-profit, leisure trust. This included £9.96m, alongside the core funding of £6m between April 2021 and April 2024. KAL also received £1.175m from Sport England during the same period.
Although KAL’s income position has recovered to above pre-Covid-19 levels, external expenditure pressures have continued to impact KAL.
The cost of running centres, in particular swimming pools, has increased due to the increase of energy and general running costs in line with the national financial situation, and staffing costs have increased due to the increases in the National Living Wage.
Leisure centre operators are facing large energy bill increases when compared to 2019. In the KAL-managed leisure centres, utilities costs have increased from around £1m to £4m per year.
It is currently costing the council between £1 and £5 per person, per visit, to operate most of the sites. However, the council is no longer in a position to maintain this level of funding. Due to the current financial situation, the council will only be able to provide KAL with funding of £2.55m next year. This means that changes will have to occur and the number of centres will reduce.
The proposal for the future of KAL leisure centres is split into three categories:
- Core offer – the sites which will stay open given that they are modern buildings with a comprehensive offer and limited capital investment needed compared to other centres.
- Marginal sites – sites the council would keep open whilst other funding and ownership opportunities are explored, or sites that require relatively low levels of council financial contributions to running costs compared to other centres.
- Potential closures – sites that require high levels of council financial contributions to running costs and require significant repairs in the next three years.
KAL will continue offering the full range of side activities in both the North and South of the district. These will be delivered from the newest and most modern sites: Huddersfield Leisure Centre and Spen Valley Leisure Centre.
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Bradley Golf Club, Deighton Sports Arena, Holmfirth Pool and Fitness Centre, Leeds Road Sports Complex, and Scissett Baths and Fitness Centre are under continued review. These centres have the potential to close within a short timescale should financial or operational circumstances change.
KAL is legally withdrawing as the operator of The Stadium Health and Fitness Club so the council will be seeking alternative operators.
KAL would, under these proposals, withdraw from all other sites and the buildings will be closed. These sites are Batley Sports and Tennis Centre, Colne Valley Leisure Centre, and Dewsbury Sports Centre.
Options for closed sites
Due to the amount of financial contribution the council can make to KAL from April 2024, KAL will need to withdraw from operating some leisure centres. This means that a decision must be made as to what to do with each building. Not every option will be possible for every centre due to financial and legal obligations. The council says it will follow its asset management process to decide whether to:
- Close the centres as full-time leisure centres and investigate alternative uses/mix of activities other than just a leisure centre.
- Pass the centres to the community to run – with public access maintained to some level.
- Market the centres to the private sector, to see if any operators would be interested in taking a site over on a commercial membership basis.
- Close the centres permanently and either sell the buildings or the land for other developments such as housing.
Why get involved in the consultation
The council is consulting on proposals for the future of all sites currently operated by KAL (core, marginal and those proposed for closure). The public’s views will help to determine the impact of the proposals on both KAL’s customers and the wider community. Any feedback gathered through the consultation will contribute to the final decision.
To get involved with the consultation, please visit: https://www.kirklees.gov.uk/beta/food-exercise-and-sport/leisure-centre-review-consultation.aspx