Live Active Leisure’s board has pledged to keep Perth Leisure Pool and Dewars Centre open this year.
But Live Active Leisure’s chairman has urged the general public to use their facilities as the organisation faces the “most complex range of challenges it has ever faced in over 50 years”.
After a lengthy board meeting on Thursday, March 16 the decision was made to make a one-year financial commitment to keep both Perth facilities fully open until the end of March 2024.
There will be no redundancies, staff will be paid the real living wage but customers can expect to see a 10–15% price increase on most activities with additional increases on selected activities. However concession prices will be frozen at current levels.
In a statement to the public, chairman David Maclehose said: “This year Live Active Leisure is faced with the most complex range of challenges it has ever faced in over 50 years as a company. Ageing assets, high and rising inflation, high demand for and increasing cost of energy, the impact of long-term public finance constraints, reduced customer income post-COVID and the cost of living crisis.
“Dealing with these issues individually would be challenging enough, collectively they represent unprecedented pressures and uncertainty. A picture which is replicated throughout the UK in organisations such as ours, dealing with the same issues.”
And Live Active Leisure’s chairman has called on the Perth and Kinross public to support them by using these facilities “as often as you can” to keep them open.
He said: “Customer generated income is vital to organisations like Live Active Leisure to remain viable and sustainable. Whilst I appreciate these are difficult times, we need your support more than ever, and therefore I would urge anyone who values the provision of our public leisure services to please use
your local venue as often as you can. Not only is this an investment in yourself and your own physical and mental wellbeing, but it’s an investment in your community as every penny spent in one of our venues is reinvested back into the company.”
He added: “The company looks forward to engaging positively and proactively with the council and our communities on this review and to further discussions on the PH2O project to ensure that the best possible physical activity and sports services are delivered across Perth and Kinross within the resources we have available.”
Live Active Leisure board member Conservative councillor Bob Brawn said: “Following a lengthy board meeting which recognised the importance of both Perth Leisure Pool and the Dewars Centre to the people of Perth and surrounding areas, the decision has been made to set a one-year budget and use part of the limited available reserves to ensure that both of these venues remain open for the coming financial year.
“During this year’s council budget, the Scottish Conservative amendment proposed allocating sufficient funds to Live Active Leisure which would have avoided the need to draw on reserves.”
Perth City North Labour councillor Brian Leishman also sits on the board and was pleased with the meeting’s outcome.
He said: “I am delighted that our leisure pool and ice rink will remain open. They are wonderful facilities that mean so much to people from every community in Perth and Kinross.
“Not only is there good news about both facilities, as a board we appreciate all the work our staff do and they are going to get a pay award in line with the Real Living Wage. This is vital as workers are experiencing the biggest squeeze on living standards ever seen.”
Perthshire North MSP John Swinney welcomed the news as “a victory for the SNP council administration”.
He said: “It is essential that people staying in Perth and the surrounding areas have convenient access to leisure facilities.
“This is a victory for the SNP council administration, who have worked closely with Live Active Leisure to secure this positive outcome.”
Perth and North Perthshire SNP MP Pete Wishart said: “Better still, this agreement has been reached without the council forking out several hundreds of thousands of pounds, as the Conservatives insisted on.”
Earlier this week UK chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced a £63m fund to support public swimming pools.
But Perthshire South and Kinross-shire MSP Jim Fairlie said Perth and Kinross’ share of the funding was not enough.
He said: “I am absolutely delighted that Perth Leisure Pool has been given a reprieve. It provides many Perthshire kids with their first experience of swimming and is vital for the wellbeing of residents across Perth and Kinross.
“The Tory claims of a bonanza ‘Swimming Fund’ have been unfortunate, given that the Barnett consequential would see each of the five LAL pools in Perth and Kinross with an estimated measly £34,000 – a drop in the ocean in the current context.”
All three Perth and Kinross Council Arm’s-length External Organisations (ALEOs) – Live Active Leisure, Culture Perth and Kinross and Perth Concert Hall and Theatre – will go under a review of how they operate.