Monday, 12 August 2013

Penwith's leisure timebomb

Over the course of the last couple of weeks, I have been involved in lots of meetings to do with the budget for next year. Our task of limiting cuts to frontline services is made all the more difficult by some of the situations that Cornwall Council has inherited from its predecessors.

One such is the PFI leisure contract for Penzance leisure centre. This costs the council £1.2 million per year.

In comparison, the 16 leisure facilities operated by the Tempus Leisure Trust (most of the rest of the leisure centres in Cornwall) together require a subsidy payment of £1.3 million per year and the Carn Brea Leisure Trust operates without any subsidy.

The contracts are slightly different. The Penzance contract is all in and the company takes care of utility bills and general maintenance. The same is true with Carn Brea. In the Tempus case, the council is still responsible for utilities and maintenance. But the stark comparison is still valid.

And the PFI contract signed by Penwith still has another 34 years to run, so there is no chance of a change anytime soon.

Of course, the company running Penzance leisure centre has done nothing wrong and they are perfectly within their rights to hold Cornwall Council to the contract. But being saddled with such a contractual millstone makes it very difficult to cut costs and balance the budget fairly.

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