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Council asked to agree principle of outsourcing its leisure and cultural services. (29/07/10)
Highland Councillors are being asked to agree the principle of establishing an arms-length organisation to deliver all activity concerning its leisure and cultural services. The services involved are swimming pools, leisure centres, sports activity, arts and culture, heritage and museums, community centres, libraries, archives, youth work and adult learning.
The Education Culture and Sport Committee will consider a report on Thursday 5 August which recommends the principle of outsourcing all of the Council’s leisure and cultural services.
Already 17 of Scotland’s 32 councils have gone down the route of managing, usually sports facilities through this mechanism.
Feedback from recent public budget consultations backs up the Council Administration’s view savings achieved by doing this could safeguard the maximum number of services during the forthcoming period of financial cutbacks. Public responses have told the Council that it is critical that services continue to be run efficiently and that there is no significant increase in prices.
In his report to the committee, Hugh Fraser, Director of Education Culture and Sport, said the financial advantages of outsourcing are primarily through savings achieved where an arms-length organisation with charitable status qualifies for non-domestic rates relief. Some increased opportunities to raise funds exist and a pattern of reduced costs is the norm. Savings of £700,000 could be possible.
He said: “The aim of establishing a single organisation covering all leisure and cultural activity currently run by the Council would be to provide high quality services to the public whilst at the same time making savings on running costs as a result of the charitable status of an arms length organisation. Speed is therefore of the essence. Key decisions are required over the next few months on a range of detailed issues. The aim would be for transfer to happen as early into the financial year 2011/12 as possible”
The Committee is being recommended to establish a project board, comprising key members of the senior management team, to lead progress on developing the ALO. Early work would be the preparation of a Service Level Agreement between the Council and the new organisation; the range of buildings and assets to be leased to or managed by the ALO; proposed staffing transfers; central support; capital funding and building and grounds maintenance arrangements.