Portland Leisure Centre: Notts County charity prepares to take over

Portland Leisure Centre Steve Hill said the charity had plans to offer a range of new local services at the leisure centre

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A charity linked to Notts County will take over a leisure centre next month, saving it from the threat of closure.

The future of the Portland Leisure Centre was in doubt because of the budget pressures faced by Nottingham City Council.

In July Notts County FC's Football in the Community (FITC) charity was chosen as the preferred bidder to take over.

It said it hoped the links with football would encourage more people to use the centre.

The charity's community director Steve Hill said: "It is pretty unusual and there is lots of interest in this nationally.

"It is about bringing us closer to the community and ensures the community continue to get access to the Portland Centre."

This is an interesting example because this autumn our county councils are going to be facing some very tough spending decisions. It could result in further job losses and councils looking at alternative models for traditional services it provides like parks, museums and libraries.

There was a similar sale several years ago of a swimming pool in Lenton being run by a social enterprise and they made their funds by letting some of the surplus office accommodation that was part of the leisure centre.

As we start to get details of the scale of some of the changes in finances in local government the question is how far is the public prepared to accept the running of these council services by charities and voluntary organisations.

Plans to get outside help to run the centre were proposed by the city council in last year's budget as it looked at ways of saving £21m.

The centre will be leased out on a 25-year deal from 1 September.

Mr Hill said the centre would also offer health services, specialist activities for disabled children and educational support for adults and young people.

The Notts County FITC charity receives funding from the Premier League but it said it hoped extra funding could be obtained to refurbish the centre.

Tim Hatton, the charity's business development manager said the link with sport and football would encourage more people to access the health services.

"Most people in Britain like football and so clubs across the country are finding ways to attract people," he said.

"Things like mental health projects which engage men who don't like talking about mental health, we get them to talk about football and their mental health.

"Or men with weight management problems that don't like going to their doctors can come to our sessions because they see the link with football and that's why they come."

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