Outdoor education cuts short-sighted says council leader

Cycling skills course at Talybont, Powys Image copyright Gwent Outdoor Education Centres
Image caption Outdoor activities enrich children's lives, the leader of Monmouthshire council says

A council leader has accused three neighbouring authorities of being "short-sighted" over the demise of an outdoor education service.

A centre at Talybont, Powys, will close after Newport and Torfaen scrapped funding for the Gwent Outdoor Education Service Partnership, with Blaenau Gwent saying it would follow suit.

Monmouthshire council will keep centres near Monmouth and Abergavenny open.

Council leader Peter Fox said it was a valuable service which enriched lives.

The four councils have been in partnership since 1996 to provide reduced-cost outdoor education at three centres - Hilston Park near Monmouth, Gilwern Outdoor Centre near Abergavenny, and Talybont Outdoor Centre in Powys.

But funding has been slashed by two-thirds from just over £340,000 in 2012/13 to £112,000 in 2017/18.

This resulted in a deficit in four of the past five years, a report by Monmouthshire council officers said in December.

Image copyright Google
Image caption The outdoor education centre at Talybont, Powys, will now close

The Talybont site - a former railway station - will now close in February and be returned to site owners Newport City Council for disposal.

Two members of staff - a site co-ordinator and a cook - will be made redundant at a cost of £30,000, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Conservative leaders in Monmouthshire agreed on Wednesday to dissolve the partnership and keep running the remaining centres, which are both in the county.

Councillor Fox said the cabinet believed in outdoor education and would continue to deliver it.

"Local authorities are pulling out of something so valuable, [where] we can enrich a child's life so much," he said.

"To withdraw that for the sake of what are relatively small efficiencies in the scale of budgets, I can't understand why they do it."

Richard John, cabinet member for children and young people, said he hoped youngsters would "continue to benefit significantly" from the remaining centres.

"But it is sad that this great example of collaboration is ending," he added.

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