Oasis Leisure Centre in Hunstanton

West Norfolk Council aims to save £400,000 a year by handing the borough’s leisure facilities over to a trust from next summer.

The move, agreed by council members earlier this year, will see the Corn Exchange, Lynnsport, St James’ pool, Hunstanton’s Oasis, and Downham Leisure Centre all run by the trust.

Transferring the facilities will save money and ensure they are preserved for future generations, said council cabinet member David Pope.

“We are proud of our achievements and the quality of services provided by the borough,” he said.

But Government cash cuts “concentrated the mind” and something had to be done to save money, he added.

The council subsidises leisure and arts faciltites in the borough to the tune of £2m a year and under the new trust the bill will be cut to £1.6m a year.

A charitable trust would not have to pay full business rates  on the premises and would also have funding stream options not open to the council.

“It is much more tax efficient and about a third of authorities have gone this way,” said Chris Bamfield, executive director of commercial services.

The utility bills on all the premises are £500,000 a year and the council will continue to pay these and meet maintenance costs.

Once established, the new trust would run the services while the buildings would still belong to the council.

Backroom operations, such as administration and payroll services will also be supplied by the council through a Local Authority Company.

No job losses will be made as a result of the move and some staff members will work for the trust, with others employed by the council.

A chairman is needed for the new trust and once in post they will appoint a further five trustees to the board.

Council cabinet member Elizabeth Nockolds has already been appointed to the board as the nomintated trustee for the local authority.

“It represents a change for us in terms of the way things will be managed internally, but externally people should notice very little difference as the buildings, services and the staff will remain broadly the same,” said Mrs Nockolds.

Applications for the voluntary position of chairman are currently being invited.

The person needs to live locally or have strong links to the borough. They would also be expected to have experience of managing a large, complex business and working with the community, ideally on a voluntary basis.

“We are looking for someone who will set the strategic direction for the organisation and will represent the trust at events and in the media,” said Mr Pope.

Anyone wishing to apply should visit www.west-norfolk.gov.uk or email personnel@west-norfolk.gov.uk and the closing date for applications is November 1.