Savings needed to cut Salt Ayre losses

Salt Ayre Sports Centre
Salt Ayre Sports Centre

SALT Ayre Sports Centre lost more than £4m in three years.

Town hall chiefs are reviewing the operation of the centre, with a £1.3m deficit projected for the 2011/12 financial year.

A report to Lancaster City Council’s budget and performance panel admits the authority needs to look at ‘creating efficiencies or sharing costs’.

But the council says it is “too early to say” whether that could affect jobs at the centre, which employs 36 full-time staff.

The provisional deficit for the last financial year – for which is still to be confirmed – is actually £76,500 lower than the council had budgeted for. Expenditure was around £2.3m, with income just £909,000.

It follows losses of almost the same amount the previous year and of £1.4m in 2009/10.

And it comes despite a £146,000 saving following a 42 per cent cut in energy use and CO2 emissions in which pumps and meters have been upgraded, and covers have been bought to help retain heat in the pool when it is not in use.

Solar panels were installed on the centre roof in April to help to reduce energy bills.

The council blames the performance of the centre cafe for missing its income targets.

Staffing costs across the council’s Community Engagement/Wellbeing service, which includes Salt Ayre, have already been reduced by £120,000 in recent years.

But the council report admits the centre “must adapt to trends in the leisure industry”.

Council officers have held talks with South Lakeland, Wyre and Fylde councils as they review how the centre’s services are delivered.

The report notes that South Lakeland uses a trust to manage its sports and leisure contract, while Wyre and Fylde both use a private sector arrangement, including the YMCA.

Talks are continuing with the three neighbouring councils with a view to developing “joint working initiatives”.

The report says: “The possibility of creating efficiencies or sharing costs, for example, by way of procurement opportunities, will continue to be examined.”

Coun Ron Sands, cabinet member for cultur, said: “Salt Ayre continues to play a major part in the council’s commitment to supporting health and wellbeing by providing access to affordable sport and leisure facilities.”