Major overhaul of leisure services on cards to save £1m

The Embassy Theatre
The Embassy Theatre

A major overhaul of leisure services – including the town’s iconic Embassy Centre – by transferring control to a charitable organisation aims to save £1 million over five years.

However, council chiefs say the changes will not affect ‘frontline services’.

East Lindsey District Council’s executive board recommended to full council that the authority set up a charitable non-profit distributing organisation (NPDO) to run leisure, health and cultural services.

The NPDO would be made up of a board of eight people, including two district councillors, and would oversee the running of the Embassy Theatre, SO Festival, the Embassy swimming pools and fitness Suite and initiatives such as the Skegness Sports 

However, the council would retain control over the Skegness Foreshore and associated bowling greens.

The portfolio holder for culture, leisure and tourism Adam Grist said the charitable trust was the ‘best route moving forward’.

He said: “The reason we’re doing this is to protect everything we’re doing at the moment. If we get this right there will be no adverse issues for the theatre, or cultural services at the moment.”

He said: “The status quo isn’t an option. If we do nothing then everything remains council-run and that will mean budget cuts year on year.”

He said the council had managed to make recent cuts without impacting too much on services but that with further cuts needed that wouldn’t be able to continue.

He said there were also advantages to a NPDO including the ability to apply for various grants and business rate 

He said other avenues had been explored, including contracting out to the private sector, but this would mean the council lost control of the services. He said: “This charity trust option seems to be the way to go, because we can make the savings - while at the same time ensuring the frontline services are continued in the future.”

Fears that services could be completely run by volunteers were rebuked by Mr Grist.

He said: “That’s not the intention at all. We have 127 members of staff and the intention is for all those to remain.”

“This isn’t a restructure dressed up,” he added.

He said the SO Festival was set to continue and that councillors hoped the event would continue to build on its success year on year - especially because of the ‘sheer number of visitors’ it draws to the area.

East Lindsey District Council will make a decision on the recommendation - which was made last Tuesday - on Wednesday.,May 14, and if successful Mr Grist hopes to complete the plans over the summer and be able to transfer control to the NPDO by early 2015.

The council would set aside £95,000 to help to set up the trust between the decision and October - although Mr Grist said he hoped the council would not spend the whole amount.