Closing Leisure Centres Early to Cut Costs Targets Low-Usage Times, Says Monmouthshire Council
CLOSING leisure centres early as part of a cost-cutting drive will be at times when there are “more staff than users present.”
As part of an effort to save £8.4m its planned to reduce the opening hours of council owned leisure centres by half an hour during each week day and three hours at the weekend by closing early.
Standard opening times would then be from 7am to 9.30pm instead of until 10pm on weekdays and from 8.15am to 4.30pm on Saturdays and Sundays instead of closing at 6pm as at present.
Monmouthshire County Council runs leisure centres at Abergavenny, Caldicot, Chepstow and Monmouth and says the reduced opening hours will save it £140,000 from April.
At a council scrutiny meeting Conservative councillor for Chepstow’s St Kingsmark ward, Christopher Edwards, said a reduction of half an hour during the week “may not matter too much” but added: “I wonder whether we should keep these weekend hours.”
He asked the Labour cabinet member for finance, Cllr Ben Callard, if he could explain the reason behind why those closing times had been proposed.
Cllr Callard, who represents Llanfoist and Govilon, replied: “They are the times of the day where usage is low. When looking at the budget we’ve tried to find savings that have the lowest impact.”
He added: “It will impact just a handful of people. There are more staff on site than customers at these times so we feel these are proposals worth considering.”
A review of leisure centre opening hours had been proposed as a budget saving last year but was dropped before the final plan was agreed.
As part of its proposed budget for the upcoming financial year the cabinet has agreed funding for its Mon Life service that runs leisure centres and cultural attractions should be cut by £615,000 from the £8.3m it received in 2023/24.
Others savings include £40,000 from closing Abergavenny and Chepstow museums for an additional day a week, as well as reviewing their business support, while Tintern Old Station will close on Mondays, other than bank holidays, to save £10,000.
A £70,000 saving from moving the council’s outdoor education centre at Gilwern to a “more sustainable model” would involve “reviewing its fees to make sure it covers more of its costs”, said Cllr Callard. He added the centre is also used by other councils.
Withdrawing the council’s £10,000 grant to the Abergavenny Tourist Information Centre would be offset by increased contributions from the Bannau Brycheiniog National Park and Abergavenny Town Council which run it in partnership.
A “high level management restructure” within Mon Life is also intended to save £120,000 a year by reducing management layers and introducing a phased area management structure which would affect “a number of full-time equivalent staff”. The council says the reduction of any subsequent posts following the initial review would be managed on an individual basis.
Mon Life’s planned £8.1m budget for 2024/25 accounts for just four per cent of the authority’s overall budget of £198m with children and young people, which includes education accounting for £64m or 32 per cent of the overall budget. Its planned to spend £67.8m on social care and health which is 34 per cent of the budget, together the two biggest spending areas account for 66 per cent of the council’s spending.
It is consulting on its spending plans until February 15.
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