Published on 29th May 2013

town hall

Cheltenham Borough Council’s leisure and culture services have been under review and a successful applicant has now been chosen to manage the new trust.

The opportunity to run these services was advertised and all the responses were robustly evaluated. However the procurement process failed to identify a sufficient pool of candidates to run an effective competition, and the only candidate that successfully passed the evaluation was the current team running the leisure, culture and tourism services at the council.

Following a 30 day challenge period for the unsuccessful candidates, the council will begin the formal process of creating the new organisation.

Pat Pratley, executive director, said: “The process of looking at the options involved weighing up the costs, benefits, risks and opportunities of different ways of delivering the services. The creation of a new trust was assessed as the option which best meets the criteria set by the council and we are pleased that work is now underway to set up the new structure.”

The trust will be completely independent of the council and run by a board of 11 trustees, two of whom will be councillors. It will manage:

• Leisure@cheltenham
• Prince of Wales Stadium
• Sport, play and healthy lifestyles
• Art Gallery & Museum (including tourism and the Tourist Information Centre)
• Town Hall
• Pittville Pump Room

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. It is hoped that the trust will be up and running by April 2014.

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 image 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, Pittville Pump Room and the redevelopment of the Art Gallery & Museum, in particular, are very important to Cheltenham’s brand.

Whilst the services will be delivered by the trust, the buildings will remain in the ownership of the council.
Councillor Rowena Hay, cabinet member for sport and culture said: “Our leisure and culture services are highly regarded; they 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. 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.”

For press enquiries contact: Katie Sandey, Communications team leader, telephone 01242 775050 or email [email protected]