Sports Facilities Popular But Finances Need Balancing

The Queen Elizabeth II Sports Hall

The Queen Elizabeth II Sports Hall

The Council’s sports facilities are proving popular but work needs to be done to balance the books.

Active Scilly services were budgeted to cost the Council just over £59,000 after income and grants. But because of increased costs and lower than expected user fees, the sports hall, pool, multi-use games area and fitness centre will cost the ratepayer an estimated £162,400.

The Community Services meeting heard that staff costs are higher because the sports hall reception hours have been extended until 10pm, there’s been extra staff training particularly in pool lifeguarding and the sports hall requires more cleaning than was thought.

Paid community coaches have been recruited to deliver a variety of sports courses which has increased costs too, but those sessions also boost income and user numbers.

Members heard that extra staffing has helped deliver the user targets set out by Sport England when they awarded the grant to build the hall.

Sports hall repair and maintenance also cost more than expected, but it’s hoped that some running costs can be reduced across all the services.

The sports hall is spending more on bottled gas than expected. Staff are assessing whether it would be cheaper to switch to electricity for heating and the Normandy pool electricity bill could be cut if the Council agrees to pay for more solar panels.

The weather has affected use of the multi-use games area. Its income is also lower because of safeguarding issues which have restricted hire during school term time.

In order to make savings, less popular pool sessions have been axed and some have been reduced to one hour to make them better value.

But the popular children’s swimming lessons will be used to drive income. Course prices will rise between 3 and 33%. 60 children enrolled last year.

Cllr Mike Nelhams told members that he had been concerned when he saw the budget figures but he was “delighted” to learn that the budget shortfalls were down to factors other than under usage and Community Services chairman, Richard McCarthy praised the take-up for, “such a small island.”

Manager Tess Lloyd explained that there were 7,365 sports hall sessions last year and 12 sports clubs use the facility weekly.

The Carn Gwavel fitness centre is moving towards break even too, despite some expected grant money not being available. There were 2,805 sessions over the last nine months of 2012.

The gym will close during May for refitting but it’s hoped that the NHS could soon prescribe workouts to islanders. That would further increase user numbers.

To reduce the future burden on the ratepayer, councillors were told that staff will now weigh up the benefits of moving Active Scilly out of Council control to a social enterprise.

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