North West Wales

At-risk Gwynedd leisure centres' tax lifeline hope

Bangor pool
Image caption Making a splash at the Bangor Aquatics Centre - will council plan secure its future?

Leisure centres facing a funding crisis could be handed a £500,000 tax relief lifeline.

Gwynedd council needs to find £12m in savings by 2021, which has put some of the 12 leisure facilities at risk.

But by transferring them to a new council-owned company, officials said the centres could attract enough tax relief to save them.

The move will be discussed by the council's cabinet on Tuesday.

The county would become the latest in Wales to either outsource its leisure services or explore alternative ways of paying for them.

Under the proposals, the new company would still be under the control of the council, which would appoint its directors and a chief executive officer.

In a report to cabinet, Sioned Williams, the council's head of economy and communities, said if no action was taken, a "significant" hike in fees could be introduced.

The report revealed it costs £5m to run the services, with about £3m covered by membership and entrance fees - an effective subsidy of £1.9m.

But the county cut that subsidy by £900,000 in 2014 and ordered savings of £1m by 2018.

Officials said they accepted the service was struggling to hit the £1m savings target and was about £200,000 short.

The cabinet has been told savings could not be made if the leisure facilities remain in-house without closing some centres and increasing fees by up to 20%.

Officers also considered outsourcing services to third-party businesses, but warned that posed risks to implementing council policy and Welsh language provision.

A council-controlled company "strikes the best balance" for savings and keeping the services' "current identity", the cabinet has been told.

If the cabinet agrees to the proposal, up to £240,000 would be set aside to form the new company, which would take over operations by early 2019.

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