Tameside Council rules out bringing Active Tameside services in house

TAMESIDE Council has said it cannot simply take over the services operated by Active Tameside as a councillor claimed ‘the writing has been on the wall.’

The proposed closure of Active Ashton, Active Etherow and Adventure Longdendale because of rising costs has sparked a furious response.

But the authority’s first deputy, Cllr Jacqueline North, insisted it cannot just be a case of ‘we’ll take on what you do.’

She told the full council meeting on Tuesday, July 18: “We need to go back in history a bit and look at why the council took the decision to use an independent charitable trust to run the leisure services in Tameside.

Active Tameside- Ashton leisure

“In today’s terms, it would cost the council £800,000 in business rates alone if we were to take the facilities back in house, even if we could do that.

“Charitable trusts also have access to a far wider range of fund sources than the council does and we can’t just decide we’re going to take them back over, that’s not allowed.

“I’m not sure I’d call their service delivery disastrous, they have won a whole number of awards and have run a very successful range of community programs.

“They also managed to keep all five pools open over the winter months, when other trusts were closing them or drastically reducing their opening hours to save on heating.”

Signing the petition

Cllr North, in whose ward two of the under threat facilities stand, also believed the question should be directed at the Conservative government, rather than the council.

She added: “Community Leisure UK, which represents charitable trusts delivering these types of services has pointed out since 2010 more than 400 pools have closed and they expect another 2,000 to by the end of the decade of we don’t have a change of government policy.

“Active Tameside has seen energy bills rise to £2 million, not including the inflation it faces in terms of chemicals for pools.

“It’s also had to pay additional wages to staff.

Cllr Jacqueline North – First Deputy and Finance

“What is proposed to help is a sticking plaster, we need something to tackle systemic issues facing this industry.”

Cllr Billington, whose ward takes in Active Copley, believes more should be said about Active Tameside’s situation.

He also feels the issue needs fully debating in the council chamber.

After asking, ‘Would it be more appropriate to cut out the middle man and bring the service back in house?’ he said: “The council has been subsiding Active Tameside for years, then adding further loans, which they’ve not paid back. That’s no way to run a service.

“The writing has been on the wall for Active Tameside. We need to have more openness and transparency over Active Tameside and bring back decision making into the borough because at the moment, it’s just robbing Peter to pay Paul.

“We need to bring the service back in house, so it’s accountable to the councillors.”

Active Tameside made the decision after the council said it could not provide the funding it needed to keep the three facilities open.

But its leader, Cllr Ged Cooney, insisted it could have done no more.

He said: “The simple fact is the numbers no longer add up. Active Tameside’s utility spend has been taken up to £2 million a year.

“We’ve every sympathy with the plight they’re facing and have done everything we can to help them through these difficult times.

“Unfortunately, we’ve reached the limit of what we can do in terms of financial resources.”

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