Sports costs now under scrutiny

Dumfries and Galloway Council must find ways to improve the way they run the region’s leisure facilities after comparing themselves unfavourably with other local authorities.

Benchmarking performance statistics were compared with other councils in a ‘family group’ based on population density and rurality. The council’s cultural services and leisure and sport service was therefore grouped with Aberdeenshire, Argyll and Bute, Eilean Siar (Outer Hebrides), Highlands, Orkney, Scottish Borders and Shetland Isles.

The comparisons showed that the council must address problems with income generation at leisure facilities. In the last year, the Ryan Centre in Stranraer cost £1,062,455 to run but only generated an income of £339,334, a net expenditure for the council of £723,121. In comparison with the others in the ‘family group’, the facility at Stranraer cost five per cent more to run but yielded 30 per cent less income. At Newton Stewart’s Merrick Leisure Centre showed an expenditure of £357,725 and an income of £122,834, costing the council £234,891 a year to break even. The Merrick Centre cost 10 per cent less to operate but yielded 45 per cent less income, in comparison with like-for-like facilities in other areas.

The active schools programme to encourage participation in sport has been a huge success in the region with a 55 per cent rise in activities available and a 49 per cent rise in participation during the past year, the largest percentage growth in its local authority ‘family group’.

The council museum service was performing well, ranking fourth out of all Scotland’s 32 local authorities, but library attendance trends were a concern with the council only ranking 23rd out of the 32 and seventh out of eight in its ‘family group’. Since 2010, attendance numbers have dropped 9.5 per cent across the region and action to improve the service has already begun with a re-branding of the library service including ‘Jack and Jill’ branding on literature and membership, a review of the mobile library’s routes and discussion are also taking place between the library service and the education department to identify mutually beneficial ways of working.

Mid Galloway Councillor Alistair Geddes said: “It illustrates graphically the various challenges being faced by the council within this area of service delivery. The Authority are identifying these challenges as a preliminary to addressing them. Part of the process, as far as I’m concerned, will require to involve stakeholders/the wider public in detailed and meaningful consultation. Unfortunately, however, I doubt if there will be any easy answers or quick fixes in developing this process.”