Durham to decide on setting up a leisure trust

Labour-controlled council believes the move could save £1m a year

Durham Town Hall
Durham Town Hall

Durham County Council will decide next week whether to agree in principle to set up a charity to run its leisure and cultural services.

The Labour-controlled council has to reduce its budget by £145.8m over the next five years and estimates the move could save more than £1m a year.

Councillor Maria Plews, cabinet member for leisure, libraries and lifelong learning, said in a statement: "In these difficult times, the status quo is almost certainly unsustainable and a trust like this could prove the best way to protect and even improve these services."

A statement by the council said a trust model presented "significant financial advantages" and "the council would retain influence over the services provided".

A Charity Commission spokeswoman said it was difficult to know precisely what "retain influence" meant, but promoters of charities needed "to ensure appropriate governance arrangements were in place that allow the trustees to act in the interests of the charity".

The council is expected to make a final decision in the autumn.

Labour-run Nottingham City Council is proposing to transfer the city’s Portland Leisure Centre to the voluntary sector as part of its attempts to save £20m.

Craig McAteer, chair of Sporta, which represents cultural and leisure trusts, said trusts provided savings but also yielded other benefits, such as a greater sense of ownership among staff.

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