Pressure has been put on Fife’s leading provider of sports and leisure facilities to perform a u-turn over plans to cut opening hours at centres in north east Fife.
The Courier revealed on Friday how Fife Sports and Leisure Trust had decided to reduce opening times by 12 hours across the week at Cupar Leisure Centre and nine at the East Sands Leisure Centre in St Andrews.
There has been a significant backlash against the move and calls for the trust to reconsider its stance have been issued.
Willie Rennie, Liberal Democrat MSP for North East Fife, said it was “astonishing” to see the changes “rushed through with little meaningful consultation”.
He said: “I have received complaints from across the constituency which have included clubs like the Step Rock Swimming Club in St Andrews who will have to cancel training sessions and competitions, to people who enjoy an early morning swim to keep them healthy.
“We need an explanation as to how on earth they reached this decision.
“We have invested a lot in these facilities, we should make sure they are available to keep us healthy and boost sport.”
Stephen Gethins, SNP MP for North East Fife, has also written to trust chief executive Ed Watson and Fife Council chiefs asking them to find a solution.
He said: “I am aware that in times of continuing austerity local authority budgets are being squeezed and that savings have to be made.
“Despite this I think it is important to make the point that North East Fife is an area comprising many rural communities where leisure centres act as important and valued community hubs, used for swimming lessons and fitness classes as well as by many of our exceptionally successful and well-supported swimming and triathlon clubs.
“While there are other leisure centres nearby in Leven and Glenrothes with swimming pools I do not think it is fair or right to expect people from North East Fife to travel.”
St Andrews Labour councillor Brian Thomson also challenged the changes.
He said: “The benefit of sport is widely recognised, particularly in terms of maintaining and improving health, and the £84,000 that the move is projected to save is insignificant when measured against the savings in healthcare costs that can arise by encouraging people to participate in sport and exercise.
“If we’re going to be serious about getting more people active in Scotland, cuts to valuable sports facilities need to be resisted and some joined-up thinking needs to take place.”
Wendy Watson, chief operating officer for Fife Sports and Leisure Trust, said changes had been agreed following consultation with staff, stressing the trust had to balance its budget according to funding announced by Fife Council.
She said: “The funding package, coupled with projected income which can be generated from centres and their programmes, means the trust will not be able to maintain the current levels of existing services.”