Liverpool Council to move closer to handing off ‘financially unviable’ leisure sites

Liverpool Council is to invite community organisations to take over the running of two leisure centres it has deemed “not financially viable.”

With footfall declining and rising costs, the city council’s cabinet is expected to move forward with proposals to hand over the control of two of its poorest performing Lifestyle centres to third parties through a community asset transfer. An executive report, to be heard next week, detailed how its leisure sites are around a decade behind other core cities in terms of evolution.

Now, Lifestyles venues at Everton Park and Park Road could be taken out of the council’s hands to keep them afloat.

The Lifestyles service is a non-statutory obligation which operates eight indoor facilities across the city. According to fresh cabinet documents, an overspend of £3.4m has been recorded “due to the failure to deliver part targets.”

A further saving of more than £900,000 is required to meet the council’s budget responsibilities as agreed earlier this year. The report said: “The council’s resources are finite and savings not made by Lifestyles services will have to be met from other council services.”

Both sites in Everton and Toxteth are described as “high cost/low performing venues and are not financially viable.” Assessment of all eight locations operated by Liverpool Council were said to be 10 years behind other major UK cities as a result of “underinvestment in the leisure estate.”

The last significant capital investment into the Lifestyles sites was undertaken in 2008. 

Everton Park comprises an eight-lane swimming pool with capacity for 400 spectators, a four badminton court sports hall and gym. Prior to the construction of the Wavertree aquatics centre and M&S Bank Arena, the facility was a primary venue used to host major indoor sports and other events.

The report said this has resulted in all major sports events bookings relocating to these alternate venues resulting in an impact/migration of memberships.

Facilities at Park Road date back as far as 1884, with two Victorian era pools, badminton court sports hall, gym and health suite. It also comprises a specialist Gymnastics Centre of Excellence.

The proposed community asset transfers would include assessing retaining community access to facilities, but the report sets out how alternative options both private and public are within two miles of both locations. Additionally, Notre Dame school uses Everton Park for the provision of the school’s sports curriculum. 

As part of any transfer, Liverpool Council will have to satisfy government the school would still have adequate access to sports accommodation. 

The commissioners appointed by Whitehall to oversee the council welcomed the proposed asset transfer but suggested officials should consider what they should do in the event of a suitable bid not being made.

Jobs are not expected to be impacted by the recommended asset transfer, with staff about both sites and other Lifestyles locations to be given the opportunity to be reassigned to the Peter Lloyd site in Tuebrook when its much delayed £2m refurbishment is completed.

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