Delivering the right leisure and culture services for Cheltenham

Published on 4th December 2012

flowers in Long Gardens on Cheltenham's Promenade

Cheltenham Borough Council’s leisure and culture services have been under review.

The aim of the review has been to find a viable and sustainable future for the services and at the same time reduce the cost of the services to the taxpayer by at least £700,000 a year.

The review is one of a number of commissioning projects being undertaken by the council. The services being reviewed are leisure@cheltenham (including the Prince of Wales Stadium), Sport, play and healthy lifestyles, Town Hall, Pittville Pump Room and the Art Gallery and Museum (including tourism and the tourist information centre).

As the review has now reached a major decision point, the council’s cabinet will be asked to decide whether they support taking the first steps towards the creation of a new leisure and culture trust.

The main outcome that the council wants to achieve from the services in the future is to strengthen Cheltenham ’s recreational offer through art, heritage, learning and sport. The council wants to build on Cheltenham ’s brand of a town that is known and recognised as a place where people are inspired to attend, experience and take part in leisure and cultural activities.

But, the council continues to operate in a very difficult financial climate and the reductions in central government funding has forced the council to think carefully about how the services that residents have said they value can continue to be delivered but with much less money. Also at the forefront of councillors’ minds is that they do not want to compromise on the quality of those services.

The council believes that a new trust would also make a major contribution to helping the council balance its books.

Although reducing the cost to the taxpayer has been very important, the review has not just been about saving money. Councillors, and others consulted, have been keen to point out the fact that Cheltenham ’s recreational offer benefits the town from a social, economic, health and community point of view. Cheltenham has not just a national, but international reputation, and the iconic buildings of the Town Hall and Pittville Pump Room, in particular, are very important to Cheltenham’s brand.

The new trust, if created, would be an organisation completely independent of the council – run by a board of eleven trustees, two of whom would be councillors. The council and the trust would agree a contract for the operation of the services and the council teams which currently run them would transfer to the trust.

Whilst the services will be delivered by the trust, the buildings will remain in the ownership of the council.

However, before a new trust can be created, a procurement exercise needs to take place to establish whether there is interest from anyone else in running all the services.

Pat Pratley, executive director, said: ‘’The process of looking at the options has involved weighing up the costs, benefits, risks and opportunities of different ways of delivering the services and the creation of a new trust has been assessed as the option which best meets the criteria set by the council.”

Councillor Rowena Hay, cabinet member for sport and culture said: “The council’s leisure and culture services perform well and attract thousands of visitors each year. The services are extremely important to the council, and the town, and we have listened to people when they have told us that they want us to protect the services and not cut them if at all possible. By undertaking this review, I believe we have identified a way that achieves that outcome and will ensure that the services are delivered in the best way at a cost which is affordable to the council.”

Contact Katie Sandey , Communications team leader, telephone 01242 775050 or email katie.sandey@cheltenham.gov.uk