North West Wales

Gwynedd leisure centres' tax lifeline plan backed

Bangor pool
Image caption The new company would run facilities like the recently refurbished Bangor Aquatics Centre

Leisure centres hit by funding cuts could now be handed over to a new not-for-profit company.

The move would see Gwynedd council save up to £500,000 in tax relief for its 12 leisure facilities.

The council needs to find £12m in savings by 2021, and warned some of its centres faced closure.

The council cabinet agreed unanimously to back the plans at a meeting on Tuesday, and to release £165,000 to set up the new company.

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.

Craig ab Iago, the cabinet member behind the proposals, told the meeting that doing nothing was not an option, as it would lead to closures.

"We don't want to do that in Gwynedd," he said.

"We want to carry on with the good services we have, the good leisure provision - but we need to find the money."

In a report to the 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 council 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 safeguarding Welsh language services.

The decision will now need to be agreed by a meeting of the full county council in Caernarfon on Thursday.

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