PLANS for Neath Port Talbot Council to bring its leisure services in house are set to be delayed for at least another 12 months, according to its budget proposals for the 2024-25 financial year.
Control of leisure services in Neath Port Talbot were originally expected to be transferred from Celtic Leisure to Neath Port Talbot Council by April of 2023, but members have said, with a gap in their budget predicted as being almost £20 million, it would no longer be possible this year.
The plans were meant to give full control of all leisure centres and other facilities in the borough to the local council, and were designed to allow for a “more coherent approach” to opening hours and service delivery in centres across the borough.
Facilities that would be transferred in the planned move include Aberavon Leisure and Fitness Centre and Aquasplash park, along with Neath Sports Centre and Pontardawe Swimming Pool. It would also see the transfer of staff into the employment of the local authority as well.
However, these plans will now be pushed back until April of 2025 at the earliest, though officers also said they were not able to make any guarantees based on the current financial difficulties they faced.
The report read: “The cost of bringing back leisure services has subsequently increased by a further £1.3m due to increased energy costs and the pay awards agreed for 2023-24 and 2024-25. As a result of this the transfer back in house cannot be afforded in 2024-25. The trade unions and Celtic Leisure Board have been advised that there will be a further delay of 12 months.”
Speaking at a cabinet meeting held by the council on December 20, Cllr Sonia Reynolds said she felt a business plan should have been put together to make sure the adopted service could provide for the borough, and not be viewed as a drain on the council’s budget.
She also expressed disappointment over claims that many elected members had found out about the delay from members of the public, and added: “I am really concerned that we get to the end of next year and there is an attempt to put this off again.”
Council leader Steve Hunt said the council had been involved in several discussions with Celtic Leisure and union representatives, as well as speaking to the workforce directly.
He added: “We are still committed to bringing it back in house, and yes, next year again I’ll say possibly could be worse, but it could be a lot better. The reality is statutory services like adult social care, children’s services, and education are a priority for us.”
The announcement came as Neath Port Talbot Council agreed to take its budget proposals for 2024-25 out to public consultation this month, with members outlining what they believed could be their most difficult budget to date, with a potential increase in council tax of as much as 10%.