Community Takeover Proposed for Struggling Liverpool Leisure Centres

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Liverpool Council is exploring the possibility of transferring the management of two underperforming leisure centres to community groups, marking a significant shift in the city’s approach to non-statutory leisure services.

The move comes as Everton Park and Park Road Lifestyles venues face financial challenges, compounded by dwindling footfall and escalating operational costs. The city council’s cabinet is expected to endorse proposals for a community asset transfer, providing a lifeline for these struggling facilities. An executive report, scheduled for review next week, highlights the urgency of addressing the financial viability of these venues, positioning community organizations as potential saviors.

According to the report, the Lifestyles service, responsible for operating eight indoor facilities across the city, has encountered an overspend of £3.4 million, attributed to the failure to meet specific targets. With a budget responsibility of over £900,000 still looming, the council is contemplating alternative measures to salvage these vital community assets.

The two locations in question, Everton Park and Park Road, are classified as “high cost/low performing venues” and are deemed financially unsustainable. An assessment of all eight leisure sites under Liverpool Council’s purview reveals a concerning trend—significant underinvestment in the leisure estate, setting them a decade behind their counterparts in other major UK cities.

The last substantial capital injection into the Lifestyles sites dates back to 2008, indicating a prolonged period of neglect that has hindered the evolution of these recreational spaces. Everton Park, for instance, was once a key venue for major indoor sports and events, hosting competitions before the construction of the Wavertree Aquatics Centre and M&S Bank Arena. However, the report notes a decline in major sports events bookings, with memberships migrating to alternative venues.

Everton Park, equipped with an eight-lane swimming pool, a four-badminton court sports hall, and a gym, faces the challenge of regaining its former prominence. Meanwhile, Park Road, boasting facilities dating back to 1884, including two Victorian-era pools, a badminton court sports hall, gym, health suite, and a specialist Gymnastics Centre of Excellence, is grappling with similar financial pressures.

The proposed community asset transfers aim to preserve community access to these facilities. The report outlines the existence of alternative options, both private and public, within a two-mile radius of both locations. Notre Dame school, relying on Everton Park for its sports curriculum, adds another layer of complexity to the transfer process. Liverpool Council must satisfy government authorities that the school’s sports activities will not be compromised in the event of a successful asset transfer.

While commissioners appointed by Whitehall to oversee the council have welcomed the proposed asset transfer, they urge officials to contemplate contingency plans if a suitable bid fails to materialize. The emphasis remains on safeguarding jobs, with reassurance that staff from Everton Park, Park Road, and other Lifestyles locations will have the opportunity for reassignment to the Peter Lloyd site in Tuebrook. The latter site awaits a much-delayed £2 million refurbishment, presenting a potential silver lining for staff affected by the proposed transfer.

As Liverpool Council navigates this pivotal moment, the community’s role in preserving and revitalizing essential leisure services takes center stage. The success of the proposed community asset transfer hinges on the involvement and commitment of local organizations, ensuring that Everton Park and Park Road Lifestyles venues remain vibrant hubs for recreation, fitness, and community engagement.

Dawn Jackson
Dawn Jackson
Journalist Dawn is an experienced business journalist specializing in regional coverage across the United Kingdom. With a keen eye for detail and a passion for uncovering stories that impact local communities, Dawn brings a unique perspective to her work. Through her insightful reporting, she keeps readers informed about the latest developments in various regions, shedding light on the economic landscape and entrepreneurial endeavours. Dawn's dedication to delivering accurate and engaging business news makes her a valuable asset to the News Write Ups team.

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