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Private trust could run Cheltenham's leisure treasures

By Gloucestershire Echo  |  Posted: December 04, 2012

  • The Pittville Pump Room

  • Cheltenham Town Hall

  • Leisure@Cheltenham

  • The Prince of Wales Stadium

  • Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum

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FIVE of Cheltenham's most treasured buildings could be run by a private trust in a bid to protect them from savage public service cuts.

The Town Hall, Pittville Pump Room, the Art Gallery & Museum, Leisure@ and the Prince of Wales Stadium would be handed over by the borough council to the new organisation.

It is hoped the move would save the council £700,000 a year as the venues would be able to be run as charitable organisations.

It would mirror the breakaway of Cheltenham Festivals, which has thrived since it left council control in 2005-6. It is also hoped the change would allow the venues to be better marketed and used more.

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Councillor Rowena Hay, cabinet member for sport and culture at the borough council, said: "These are some of Cheltenham's most iconic buildings and they are an integral part of the fabric of the town.

"Because the services they provide are not statutory services, inevitably they are the first port of call when cuts are being made. We believe that by setting up a trust to run them, it is the best way to protect them and the services they provide.

"Significant savings could be made through running it as a focused organisation, away from other council services.

"Local authorities have to buy and sell under certain rules and as a commercial charitable organisation, things could be done differently. It will also be a way of maximising their potential. For instance, we would hope to see a venue like Pittville Pump Room used much more."

The idea of running the venues through a trust came as the council's leisure and culture services were put under pressure to save between £500,000 and £700,000 by 2017-18.

Under recommended proposals, a new body known as the Cheltenham Leisure and Culture Trust would be set up – at a one-off cost of £410,000.

Run independently of the council, it would be managed by a board of 11 trustees – two of whom would be councillors.

Mrs Hay said the move would be subject to a management agreement between the trust and the authority which would protect against sudden hikes in ticket or membership prices.

She added councillors were anxious to see the management of the facilities remain in Cheltenham – rather than go to private companies from outside the town. We are not about to sell the family silver," she said. "What's made in Cheltenham should be for Cheltenham."

The cabinet will decide whether it supports the idea on December 11.

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