Deadline looms for future of city leisure centres

A major deadline is looming for the future of two Liverpool leisure centres that could be taken out of city council management.

It was revealed by senior officials at the Cunard building the local authority can no longer afford to invest in all its leisure facilities and as such would look to invite expressions of interest from community groups to take them over.

More than £2m is needed to be saved from the local authority’s leisure budget across the next three years and with a pair of the city’s Lifestyle sites falling into worse condition by the day, officials have warned “challenging decisions” lay ahead to maintain a provision for the public.

Now a week remains for interested parties to register their bids with the council to take over the sites.

The leisure service is a non-statutory obligation which operates eight indoor facilities across Liverpool. Cllr Harry Doyle told a culture and visitor economy committee before Christmas that while he did not want buildings to close, a new approach needed to be found.

A review of the city’s leisure sites was approved back in October 2020 in a bid to establish how financial pressures could be eased. A number of locations are in a poor condition and said to be “reaching the end of their operational life”.

This includes Everton Park – which dates back to its roots as a Victorian wash house in 1884 – and Park Road in Toxteth. As a result, the council is considering relinquishing responsibility for the locations through a community asset transfer.

In March, Liverpool Council agreed to implement a budget saving for leisure centres of £250,000 this year and a further £1.8m up to 2026. It is projected the service has an overspend of £3.4m per year.

It is expected that any transfer away from the public sector would not lead to job losses from the leisure centres impacted. Any legitimate interests will be subject to a community asset transfer panel which will either accept or reject the application.

Successful applications will then be required to submit a business plan before being offered heads of terms for the lease of either building. Transfers of the sites are subject to £5,000 being paid by way of legal and surveyors fees.

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