Future of funding for Cheddar swimming pool could be in jeopardy
It has been revealed that the peace pact between pool owner Kings of Wessex School and Sedgemoor District Council was teetering after just 10 months.
Councillor Peter Lythgoe, chairman of Cheddar Parish Council and Head of Governors at Kings, said that Sedgemoor wanted a three-year review clause added to the agreement between the local authority and the centre. The council also wanted its scrutiny committee to check footfall so that any money given to the centre could be justified.
This means that the original January agreement between the Centre and the Council has still not been signed and things have been described as a stalemate.
Centre bosses fear that the option of reviewing every three years could allow the council to avoid its financial commitment to them, particularly with lower Government pay outs expected to local authorities.
Councillor Lythgoe told fellow councillors at Cheddar Parish Council: "We pointed out that a lot of people in this end of Sedgemoor don't think this was right."
A spokeswoman for Sedgemoor said: "If we give money to any organisation we ask for certain things. It's a standard thing to have a review built in, sometimes every three years, sometimes every five years. The Government has not told us yet how much we will get for the next three years. We know what we are getting next year but not the year after. Everyone from local government to public services to hospitals are being told to expect up to 20 per cent less over the next five years."
Sedgemoor has had to close a £1.2 million budget gap and wanted the Centre to use money from the pool's capital savings instead of them having to make their annual payment.
A status quo was reached where the savings were capped at £400,000, the Council took anything above that, and agreed to continue paying £150,000 a year to the Centre and to top up the capital fund to £400,000 if it ever dips.
Centre manager Paul Whittaker said: "We agreed to hand back £200,000 from our maintenance fund and now we are being punished for running a good business and for saving that money over the years. The Government is trying to reduce obesity levels yet cutting funding to do so."
[via This Is Somerset]
The Centre is currently owned and operated by Somerset County Council on behalf of the school and the community.
Funding for the Leisure Centre is provided jointly by Somerset County Council, Sedgemoor District Council and The Kings of Wessex School.
The funding provided by Sedgemoor District Council is for the community use of the Swimming Pool and the maintenance of this facility.
The school Governing Body are not legally permitted to use education funding for supporting the community use of the Leisure Centre, including the Swimming Pool and are not therefore in a position to make up any shortfall.
The Swimming Pool was opened in 1998 and replaced the Cheddar Outdoor Pool. Funding to build the pool was provided by The National Lottery, Somerset County Council and from donations.
The Swimming Pool currently delivers weekly swimming lessons to over 1000 children in the Cheddar Valley and in Jan 09 was reporting 200,000 visitors per year.
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