Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Leisure is costing us the Council Tax freeze

One reason why HDC cannot take the Council Tax freeze money is because the Council is looking to not increase Leisure Centre charges next year by the amount needed.
The Government is looking to bribe HDC with £180k to freeze their portion of the Council Tax. Yet HDC is looking not to increase charges at the Leisure Centres by the full amount needed. This means the council taxpayer will have to pick up this bill.

What else is HDC doing with Leisure to reduce costs. Well HDC isn't. The Trust route for saving money has been ruled out.
HDC hasn't really got the idea of a Leisure Trust. A Trust is there to manage the Leisure Centres. HDC still has the lease and still can put in capital investments into the Leisure Centres. By not going down this route HDC is throwing away £400k a year.

But that isn't the worst bit. The new Conservative administration made much about the cost of the loan for the Eatons Community Centre. Yet when it comes to the St Ivo rebuild they are silent.

The budgeted cost of the St Ivo Leisure Centre is £3,080,000. Repayment over 50 years = £61,600. A loan taken out for 50 years will attract an interest rate (PWLB) of 4.2% or £129,360 in the first year.

The Leisure Centres keep looking like a business. Yet this business is one where the capital costs are excluded. Many Councils have put their Leisure Centres into a Trust arrangement to save money on rates and other costs. Even then I have to wonder why the Council is putting money into Leisure Centres when, really, this should be run by private sector operators. In St Ivo Leisure Centre, the District Council will put in a 5 lane bowling alley. Is this really for Councils to provide.

Councils should be here to provide services which private operators cannot. In Huntingdonshire, the Conservatives are going down the road of a state run leisure business thereby excluding the private sector from this area. Because in the end who can compete against a council which can take the losses, because the Council taxpayer picks up these losses, or has access to cheap long term finance which the council taxpayer picks up.

It is way past time that HDC finally got rid of the Leisure Centres to a Trust. But the socialists in the Conservative Group seem to want Leisure to carry in as otherwise the Council would not have a reason to exist.

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