A public consultation on the future of Gateshead Council's Leisure Services has commenced today, Wednesday 2 November, and will run until 13 December 2022. This will provide an opportunity for residents and stakeholders to have their say on the way they use the existing service.
We are facing a crippling financial challenge. The impact of the cost of living crisis, spiralling running costs, combined with poor post COVID-19 recovery has resulted in leisure services being overspent by more than £2m in the current financial year. 12 years of austerity have led to budget cuts totalling £179m and this, combined with the need to identify a further £55m of savings over the next three years, will mean that we will face a series of unpalatable decisions.
We must focus on making services efficient and cost effective in order to ensure we have the budget to continue to support our most venerable residents. As such we can no longer continue to sustain leisure services in its current form.
We agreed on 25 October 2022 to seek an external delivery partner to manage the service and the possible closure of leisure centres. An internal evaluation has identified that Gateshead and Dunston Leisure Centres are most at risk of closure, but no final decisions have been reached.
We are now consulting on the future delivery of leisure services in the borough, including the permanent closure of at least two leisure centres. The consultation is an opportunity for residents and stakeholders to have their say on how a reduction in service might impact on them, and to suggest ways to improve services. The consultation is now available online, and for those without access to the internet, paper copies of the consultation will be available at leisure centres from 1pm on Thursday 3 November.
For residents who do not have facilities to complete the consultation online series of in person consultation sessions will be held at:
|Birtley Leisure Centre||Friday 11 November||10.30am to 12.30pm|
|Birtley Swimming Centre||Saturday 19 November||9.30 to 11.30am|
|Blaydon Leisure Centre||Thursday 10 November||7.15 to 9.15pm|
|Dunston Leisure Centre||Saturday 19 November||12.30 to 2.30pm|
|Gateshead Leisure Centre||Friday 11 November||5 to 7pm|
|Gateshead Stadium||Thursday 17 November||5.30 to 7.30pm|
|Heworth Leisure Centre||Thursday 10 November||12noon to 2pm|
We are anticipating these sessions to busy and you may need to queue to enter. The questions asked during the in person sessions mirror the online consultation.
We will present the findings of the consultation and plans for the future of leisure services to Cabinet in January 2023.
Cllr Martin Gannon, Leader of Gateshead Council said "Council services need to be responsive to community need and must be delivered in an effective and efficient way. We are in a position where we cannot continue to subsidise leisure services by £2m a year. At a time when many residents are facing the very difficult decision as to whether to heat their home or feed their family, it is only right that we review our overall offer to the community and support them with the services they need most.
We recognise that the closure of facilities is not what anyone wants to see, and we will continue to fight for Gateshead, and call upon Government to recognise the devastating impact cuts are having, particularly at a time when we should be working hard to sustain and protect community services for our residents.
I encourage everyone to complete the consultation online or at one of our libraries or leisure centre, our residents' views are invaluable in this leisure review process".
Alice Wiseman Director of Public Health said "We recognise that our leisure centres are extremely important to those who use them regularly and understand the impact that closures may have for these individuals. As Director of Public Health, I can assure our communities that the Council does not underestimate the importance of exercise and we are not taking this decision lightly - we have already carried out an extensive review of how our facilities are currently being used and I encourage everyone who uses the sites to take part in the public consultation, so that their views can also be taken into account and help shape the delivery of leisure services in future.
Closing some of our sites will ensure that the leisure centres that remain open can offer more reliable and sustainable services - continuing to provide school swimming lessons, for example. Most importantly though, we know that the cost of using our facilities currently makes them inaccessible to an increasing number of our residents and sadly, these are the groups who need our support the most. We must focus our efforts and limited resources on helping as many people across all our communities as we can. Whilst no one would voluntarily choose to close leisure centres, the harsh reality is that without additional Government funding, there is no alternative option."