Membership body criticises council's decision to take leisure charity back under its control

Community Leisure UK says it is disappointed after Falkirk Council voted to take Falkirk Community Trust in-house again

(Photograph: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels)
(Photograph: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels)

A membership body has criticised a Scottish council’s decision to bring a leisure charity back under full control.

Community Leisure UK said it was surprised and disappointed with the decision made by Falkirk Council last month to take the Falkirk Community Trust back in-house.

Falkirk Community Trust has been providing cultural, recreational, sports and library services on behalf of the council since it was established as independent charity in 2011. 

CLUK said the charity had worked closely with its council partner to continually improve the services and programmes for local communities and to drive efficiencies within the delivery of these services. 

The body warned there would be additional costs incurred by transferring the services back in-house through the loss of rates savings amounting to £1.4m per annum. 

In addition, CLUK said these figures did not take account of the costs involved in winding up the charity, transferring assets and staff to the council. 

But the council said its review had found advantages that included bringing all the facilities and services under the responsibility of a single decision-maker and the return of public services to direct democratic accountability.

CLUK said: “The risk of politically motivated decisions being made with no evidence to support them, is that public services will be impacted, potentially to the detriment of local communities, with higher delivery costs and a loss of a board with expertise from the local area.

“We must ensure that our public leisure and culture meet the needs of their local communities and circumstances and are delivered in the most effective way in order to maximise their impact and outcomes.”

A statement from Falkirk Community Trust said it was "clearly disappointed in this decision at a time when we believe we should be focusing all our efforts on recovery from the pandemic". 

It said: "Despite this uncertainty, we will continue to champion and work towards our vision of communities in Falkirk becoming the most creative and active they can possibly be."

The charity said it had achieved a tremendous amount over the past nine years and would work to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Cecil Meiklejohn, the SNP leader of Falkirk Council, said the council would work closely with the Falkirk Community Trust to ensure a smooth transition that would allow it to continue to deliver “the best leisure, heritage and arts services and facilities for our communities”.

She said: “We are currently working on the details of the process and we will endeavour to keep all our stakeholders informed as both organisations progress this work.

“The decision to bring Falkirk Community Trust back in house was taken by elected members after much discussion and deliberation and we want to reassure our communities that once transferred, we will seek to continue the improvement and development of services.”

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