The company earmarked to run leisure and cultural facilities across Stafford Borough has been identified.
Venues including Stafford Leisure Centre, the Gatehouse Theatre and Stafford Castle, as well as the new multi-million pound leisure centre in Stone, will be run by Freedom Leisure as the borough council’s ‘preferred bidder’.
Popular events such as Shakespeare at the Castle and the Stafford Half Marathon would also be safeguarded by the arrangement to place facilities and services in to a “trust”. This would allow costs to be reduced and is expected to save the authority around £900,000 on average a year over the 10 year contract period.
Leader of the Council, Patrick Farrington, said: “This move is all about making sure our leisure and cultural facilities, and the services provided for residents, are protected, and taken forward, while ensuring savings are made to the public purse. Over many years we have demonstrated a very good track record of finding ways in which we can save money without detriment to services. We scrutinised all the prospective trusts who expressed an interest in running the service to make sure we got the best for the people of Stafford Borough and ensure that our good track record continues.”
The buildings will continue to be owned by Stafford Borough Council and some functions, such as the management of the award-winning Victoria Park and Wildwood Park, will still be run by the local authority. Freedom Leisure is the UK’s third largest charitable leisure trust operating 75 centres across the South East, Wales and the West of England.
The move to put leisure and cultural functions in to a trust coincides with the expected withdrawal of money the Government gives to local authorities to help run services from 2018 and will help maintain the existing frontline services provided to residents.
The contract is expected to be signed in September with Freedom Leisure taking over the running of the services in December.