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£82m needed to bring leisure centres and swimming pools in Powys up to standard

It will cost £82million to bring Powys leisure centres and swimming pools up to net zero standards (Pic: Pixabay)

IT WILL COST £82 million to bring leisure centres and swimming pools in Powys up to the standard needed to meet carbon Net Zero obligations, councillors have heard.

At a meeting of the Economy, Residents and Communities scrutiny committee on Monday, March 18 councillors were given an update on the keenly anticipated leisure review.

This review into leisure services is looking into how the council intends to shape its future provision and could see some leisure centres and swimming pools closed or different models of provision implemented.

Cllr Gareth E Jones of the Independents for Powys group had chaired the working group, and explained that group had looked at the “process” for the review.

Cllr Gareth E Jones (Pic: Powys County Council)

He said that “quite a number” of councillors including himself had expected to be discussing the future of “leisure centre x” and “swimming pool y.”

Cllr Jones said: “I think we had a successful review it took us a little time to get our head around the process.

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“The one point I should stress is the work around the maintenance backlog and the figures required to bring all of the centres up to Net Zero, which I can’t remember the actual figure but it’s very large.”

He asked if the officers could help him, and interim head of community services Jenny Ashton said: “It’s £82million.”

The report explained that councillors had found that the running and operational costs for the leisure facilities could be met within the fee that the council pays Freedom Leisure who are running the centres at a profit.

But the problem the funding needed to maintain and improve the buildings is more than the “budget available.”

The councillors also placed a “level of unreliability” on how the £2million paid from Freedom Leisure is spent due to a lack of “full breakdown.”

Information was also provided on the leisure facilities at Crickhowell High School and from the trustees of Hay-on-Wye swimming pool.

Both of which are run independently and are not part of the Freedom Leisure contract.

Cllr Jones said: “Two very different models, and they have had their unique challenges as well.

Liberal Democrat Cllr Raiff Devil asked what the “next steps” for the review will be?

Portfolio holder for leisure, Liberal Democrat Cllr David Selby said that the leisure review and the working group report forms part of the work on “sustainable” Powys.

“We have the data that informs and helps decisions as we move forward,” said Cllr Selby.

Committee chairwoman, Liberal Democrat Cllr Angela Davies pointed out that from the forward work programme she expected to see a report on the leisure review brought to a meeting in May.

Cllr Davies: “I guess we all wait for the next paper which will give us the context of what happens next.”

The working group report will also be presented to the council’s Cabinet at a meeting tomorrow, Tuesday, March 19.

Not for profit company, Freedom Leisure run 13 leisure, sports centres, and swimming pools across Powys and were awarded a 15 year council contract in 2015 to run the facilities.

The review into leisure facilities has been prompted by the cost of living crisis and rising energy costs which saw the utility bills for running the centres jump up massively towards the end of 2022.

This saw a proposal to mothball three leisure centres from January to March 2023 – but following protests from opposition councillors the decision was cancelled as an extra £287,000 was found and give to Freedom Leisure them cope the with energy costs.

Since then, Freedom Leisure has implemented a number of energy saving initiatives to drive down costs.