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Drastic sports centre closures are revealed

Sports facilities including a golf course, swimming pool and leisure centres are on a closure hit list as part of a bid to find at least £800,000 of savings in the next year, it emerged today.

Bosses at Edinburgh Leisure, the firm which runs sports facilities on behalf of the city council, outlined the drastic measures in a report leaked to the Evening News.

The News understands that they have told board members that the closure of Portobello Golf Course, the Kirkliston and Crags leisure centres and Dalry Swim Centre would be needed in order to plug the gap in its finances. Another option is to close the loss-making climbing centre at Ratho, as well as one or two of the smaller venues.

The news comes days after we revealed that council officials have proposed a £347,000 funding cut for Edinburgh Leisure from next April.

Councillor Paul Godzik, a former board member of Edinburgh Leisure, who campaigned against the closure of the last four creches earlier this year, said: "We know that Edinburgh Leisure were under serious pressure last year and had to cut services by closing creches. It would be hard to see where they could get savings this year without closures.

"They have had cut after cut. Last year I said it seems like death by a thousand cuts and the cuts the administration is forcing on it seem to be relentless.

"We constantly talk about increasing access to sport and any proposal to reduce the number of centres would clearly not increase activity levels. It would do quite the opposite."

It is understood that the firm is now looking at £800,000 of savings because of additional financial pressures on top of the council funding cut, including changes to employer's national insurance contributions and the increase in VAT.

There are also fears of more funding cuts in future years.

At a council meeting yesterday, director of corporate services Jim Inch said the council could only provide details of next year's proposed cut to Edinburgh Leisure at this stage.

Councillor Gordon Buchan, culture and leisure spokesman for the Conservative group on the council, said: "I am very concerned to hear about these proposals. If a facility is closed somewhere like Kirkliston it would be quite a distance for people to go to another."

Councillor Gordon Munro, sport and leisure spokesman for the city's Labour group, said: "Nobody wants to see leisure centres close, especially in the run-up to the Commonwealth Games. It would be a big blow."

Full proposals on closures are expected to be drawn up in the coming months.

Source: Michael Blackley,
Evening News, Wednesday, 1st September, 2010