Financial pressures on the region’s sports and leisure trust could be eased by the council, allowing reversal of a swimming pool hours cut decision, it has been claimed.
Fife Sports and Leisure Trust (FSLT), the region’s largest provider of leisure facilities, said budget pressures are to blame for a cut in operating times by 12 hours across the week at Cupar Leisure Centre and nine at the East Sands Leisure Centre in St Andrews.
A backlash from users has centred particularly on centres opening later and closing at 2.30pm at weekends, stopping families making the most of weekend access.
However, the trust has effectively said its hand has been forced into the move after seeing the annual management fee it receives from the council fall from £6 million to just £2 million since it took over the running facilities in 2008.
Willie Rennie, Liberal Democrat MSP for North East Fife, has asked the local authority to intervene and free up cash to restore opening times.
He said: “A £4 million reduction in the budget for the trust is significant and in real terms is a further, greater cut.
“The trust has done a lot to raise additional revenue but the truth is that the longer the centres are open, the more financial support is required from the council.
“Budget cuts across the board are severely impacting key groups of people including many who start their day with an early morning swim.
“Public swimming overall is being cut, which impacts on the health of the general population.
“There is a danger that the cuts will result in fewer people using the centres which will hit revenue for the trust resulting in greater cuts to hours and so on.”
Andy Maclellan, community projects team manager at Fife Council, said the trust’s programme of reducing opening hours had been targeted at times which, in the main, are outside the core peak operating periods.
He said: “FSLT have highlighted that the changes safeguard times for community activities for older adults and children, for example health classes and children swimming lessons.
“It also protects, as far as possible, the continued delivery of sports and leisure opportunities over a seven day-a-week delivery model across its portfolio of 14 sites in key geographical areas across Fife without the need to close facilities.
“Although the council has made significant capital investment of over £55 million over the last 10 years into replacing and enhancing leisure facilities, FSLT have not been immune to budget reductions over a number of years.
“Despite their best efforts to minimise the impact on customers in the face of increasing competition it has not been possible for them to totally avoid changing some of the service delivery.”