Caution over cost saving measures for leisure sites

The Embassy Theatre.
The Embassy Theatre.
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Major local figures have reacted cautiously to news that the district council is to explore alternative ways of delivering its leisure services in the area - including the Embassy Theatre in Skegness.

The council is looking to make savings following budget cuts and is exploring the possibility of transferring operation of some local leisure and cultural services to specially created charitable trusts.

The council currently spends £4.24m in the department.

Adam Grist, ELDC’s portfolio holder for leisure and tourism, has said cuts are “inevitable” but has also given assurances that the public will not notice any difference.

Changes would affect the Embassy Swimming Pool and Theatre in Skegness, as well as facilities in Louth and Horncastle. However Mr Grist has made assurances that: “The customer will not see any difference in the service provided. There will be no closures or reduction in services.”

The council will consider making services part of a charitable trust and he believes “appreciable” savings can be made as well as revenue from other potential income streams.

If this were to happen, employees would not be employed directly by the council.

However, local figures are cautious. Skegness Mayor Jim Carpenter said: “We would hope any changes would be for the benefit, not for the worse of the town. The general public often get the brunt of it all and I hope any changes are of a minimal effect. If we’re not careful then we will be losing holiday-makers to neighbouring seaside towns.”

Chairman of SECHWA, Nigel Tett, added: “The local authority has to look very carefully at costs and expenditure but it needs to support an industry that generates half a billion pounds a year and a workforce of over 10,000 people.”

Mr Grist believes with spending cuts expected, a pro-active approach is best. He said: “I don’t want somebody one day to tell me I’ve to start closing leisure facilities”.

Last year £100,000 was saved by general efficiency and a new staff re-structure. “It works, it saves money and will protect the services we currently offer,” said Mr Grist.

The arts and festivals such as the SO Festival fall under the same funding, but Mr Grist said plans for SO Festival 2014 are well underway.