East Lindsey leisure services face charity trust plan

Embassy Theatre, Skegness Image copyright Google
Image caption Embassy Theatre is among services which cost hundreds of thousands of pounds

A Lincolnshire arts festival, leisure centre and town theatre could all be moved from council control to save money.

East Lindsey District Council wants to hand the So Festival, Embassy Theatre in Skegness and Meridian Leisure Centre in Louth to a charitable trust.

Officials said this would allow the facilities to access new funding.

It would also save the authority at least £1m over five years without major job losses, they added.

The council has seen a £1.9m (13.9%) cut in central government funding this financial year, on top of £1.2m the previous year.

'Protecting services'

It said the Meridian Leisure Centre, which only opened in 2010, currently required a £250,000 annual subsidy.

About £350,000 is spent on its events programme, which includes the So Festival.

Councillor Adam Grist is in charge of culture, leisure and tourism at the authority and insisted action had to be taken.

"Looking at this the status quo is not an option, we can't just stand still and hope this problem goes away," he said.

"Every service will be carefully scrutinised and we think, by being proactive and taking this step, we are protecting the services we offer at the moment."

Pay and conditions

As well as access to grants, charitable status would bring business rate and VAT relief.

Mr Grist explained the proposals were for the council to pay the trust a management fee, which would decrease over time.

The authority would have members on the trust's board, would retain ownership of the buildings and also insist on guarantees for employees' pay and conditions.

The plans will go before the full council next month.

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