Gateshead Leisure Services: three-month reprieve for rescue talks

Published Tuesday, 24th January 2023
By James Cowen

Credit LDRS

Today, many residents continued to campaign to save Gateshead and Birtley Leisure services which are currently under-threat of closure, outside of Gateshead Civic Centre 

Earlier this morning, a cabinet meeting was held to discuss further plans on the proposed closures, but today, those plans were paused for a three month period. 

Council officials are holding off plans until the summer, to allow for rescue talks to try and save Gateshead Leisure Centre and Birtley Swimming Centre. 

Labour council leader Martin Gannon proposed funding the centres to stay open for at least an extra three months.

He also believes that community asset transfers are possible: "We are doing it because we believe it is possible to make these community asset transfers happen. If I did not believe it was possible, I would not do it, I would be honest and tell people that they have to close."

However, Martin added leader that centres could not be funded indefinitely through the local authority's reserves, due to the rising cost pressures from the demand for adult social care.

Councillor Gannon said: "This has to have an end stop. We cannot keep on funding these services from reserves because it will have a consequence elsewhere."

There will also be an extra consultation for the people of Birtley, as residents only found out about the risk of their pool closing last week, when council plans changed.   

Birtley sports hall and Dunston Leisure Centre had originally been named at risk, but those proposed plans were axed. 

We previously reported yesterday Councillor Robert Waugh is said to be 'in talks' with organisations to help save Gateshead Leisure Centre: "We have had conversations with organisations working with the community on this bid and they are regional and national organisations. They have been really positive about being able to achieve at least a break-even position with Gateshead Leisure Centre, for a number of reasons."

"With a new structure, it would be able to apply for different amounts of funding and different grants that the council is not able to access. Everyone is aware that things like this take a lot of planning. Nothing can be 100 per cent guaranteed, but from conversations we have had so far it is quite positive. We hope that, with an extension, something like that could be nearing a final stage of completion by the end of June."

There have also been reports that a commercial organisation could take over Birtley Leisure facilities.

Hear our programme 'Around Gateshead' which features reaction from residents about these proposed cuts by clicking here.

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