Theatre and sports centres future-proofed in new money saving plan

Westbridge-Park

Plans are to be discussed that will safeguard leisure and cultural facilities in Stafford Borough and save tax payers more than half a million pounds a year.

The move will protect popular venues and events such as Stafford Gatehouse Theatre, Shakespeare at the Castle, and leisure centres in Stafford and Stone. And the Council is not looking to cut jobs as part of the plans.

Stafford Borough Council’s cabinet will be discussing the proposals next week (Thursday 5 November) which will see some of the leisure services the local authority provides going in to a charitable trust.

Becoming a trust would allow costs to be reduced, could also lead to greater buying power, and is expected to save the authority around £540,000 a year.

Leader of the Council, Patrick Farrington, said:

“This move is all about making sure our leisure and cultural facilities, and the services provided for residents, are protected, and taken forward, while ensuring savings are made to the public purse.

“Over many years we have demonstrated a very good track record of finding ways in which we can save money without detriment to services or cutting jobs. And we will be looking carefully at these new proposals to make sure we get the best for the people of Stafford Borough and ensure that good track record continues.”

Some functions, such as the management of the award-winning Victoria Park and Wildwood Park, will still be run by the council. And proposed developments for a new multi-million pound leisure centre and play facilities at Westbridge Park in Stone will also be unaffected by the move.

An internal project team would be set up to oversee the transition with a national search for a partner to run the services as a charitable trust – if the plans are given the green light.

The report will go before the meeting of the cabinet on Thursday 5 November at 6.30pm and the agenda is now available.

The timing of the move will coincide with the expected withdrawal of money the Government gives to local authorities to help run services from 2018 and will help maintain the existing frontline services provided to residents. The Council has earmarked £150,000 to implement the plans.