Questions you may have about Whitworth Leisure Centre
1) What is currently happening regarding the Leisure Trust?
As with many leisure providers Rossendale Leisure Trust is being hit by big increases in energy bills and other pressures due to inflation. This puts both the Trust and the Council at financial risk. A report by Grant Thornton, an independent financial expert has made urgent recommendations to ensure that we can keep a good leisure offer in Rossendale and ensure the financial viability of the Trust and the Council.
2) Is this problem really down to the Cost of Living Crisis?
This coming year it is expected that the Trust will have to spend over £1 Million more on energy and staffing costs than they did before Covid. The issue of repairing the building to bring it up to the required standard for operation also impacted on the decision to close.
3) What does this mean for Whitworth Leisure Centre?
Whitworth leisure Centre has been identified as losing the Trust over £280,000 and it is putting all other leisure facilities at risk. The building is also in a poor condition and will need a large immediate investment to keep it in use. The independent report recommends we close Whitworth Leisure Centre as soon as possible. The Council have reluctantly accepted this recommendation. The Leisure Trust will be communicating with users about alternative provision provided by the Trust and in neighbouring authorities.
4) Why is Whitworth losing so much money?
Swimming generally is expensive to provide due to energy and labour costs associated with it. In the case of Marl Pits a large gym facility creates income which supports the pool. At Whitworth usage is low for the gym as its very small and the pool is as expensive as Marl Pits but without the income to support it. Several maintenance issues also make Whitworth more expensive than other sites. Currently the small pool cannot be opened due to corroded pipework leaking.
5) What will happen to the building and land?
The building has several issues, most importantly asbestos in ceilings and structural issues with the tower. These are not issues that can be fixed easily and it would not be financially prudent to refurbish the building. They also make operating the building difficult. It makes most economic sense to demolish the building and use the site for something else, but this decision is yet to be made.
6) What is the longer term vision for leisure?
The vision includes a new facility in the East of the borough to replace Whitworth and this would be a priority as soon as funding can be identified. A borough wide consultation has already been undertaken and a long term vision for leisure facilities has been developed and was agreed by Council in December 2022. This also involves improvements to Marl Pits running track, new tennis courts and skate parks and pump tracks which have already been completed with external funding. We also have funding agreed for two new 3g artificial football pitches. The funding of leisure centres is difficult with increasing costs, but we are working very closely with Sport England as a potential major funding partner.
7) Where will people go in the short term?
The nearest Rossendale Leisure Trust operated facility is Pioneer in Bacup and Marl Pits Rawtenstall. For members, access to these centres is already included within their membership. Alternatively, there is leisure provision in Rochdale.
8) What about swimming lessons?
There are 12 schools that use the pool for swimming lessons, 8 from Rossendale and 4 from Rochdale. It has been agreed to continue operating the centre at Whitworth until the summer holidays.
Learn to swim lessons will also continue as normal until the summer holidays.
9) Will there be any job losses
The Trust are working closely with the staff at Whitworth to minimise any job losses. It is are committed to supporting the staff and are acting as quickly as possible to minimise the uncertainty the staff are currently facing.
10) Why not save money elsewhere to fund the centre?
The Council have had to deliver efficiencies every year since 2010 and has seen over 40 percent of its overall budget cut due to restrictions in its funding. This year the Council will be making further changes to cut costs to tackle inflation and funding reductions. The Leisure Trust, which operates Whitworth Leisure Centre, is also having to deliver efficiencies. The Whitworth Leisure Centre loses so much money that it does not make economic sense for the council tax payer to subside it to this amount.
11) Who did the report?
Grant Thornton are independent financial experts. They completed a full strategic review of the Trust and Council’s financial position. The spending on this was kept to a minimum, however it was critical that we had a clear independent view from a financial expert to understand what was needed to reduce the immediate risk to the Council and the Trust.
12) Are there plans for other cuts to leisure facilities?
The Trust is developing a clear action plan with the Council to implement the recommendations from the independent report and at present there are no plans for reducing any other facilities.
13) Why no Warning or consultation?
The report has been taken to Council at the earliest possible opportunity as action was needed urgently. This did not allow time for specific consultation on the Grant Thornton recommendations, however over the past year considerable community engagement has taken place regarding the Boroughs current and future leisure offer.
14) What happens to users of the facilities?
The Trust will be communicating with all users of the facilities over the coming days.