Richmondshire Leisure Trust should be given an extra £130,000 to keep Richmond Swimming Pool running in the short-term, council officers have recommended.
Richmondshire District Council’s corporate board will on Tuesday consider granting the trust £65,000 more a year – the equivalent to 289 average band D annual council tax bills from the authority – to run the facility.
If approved, it would bring the authority’s total annual grant for the pool to £313,000, but it is also recommended that figure be increased annually in line with inflation over the next five years.
The proposal comes just a year after the council’s chairman had to use his casting vote before it was agreed to inject one third of the authority’s annual council tax income into the pool’s first major renovation in two decades.
At the time, the authority’s leader Councillor Angie Dale described the £1.4 million environmental and building improvements as “an absolutely amazing scheme – an investment where it needs to be spent”.
However, opposition members questioned whether the trust, which receives £263,000 a year from the council to run the facility, should be self-sufficient and more actively pursue alternative funding sources.
An officer’s report to next week’s meeting states the trust has continued to “struggle financially”, despite receiving Government and district council grants during the pandemic, as well as being able to reduce running costs, and making use of the Government’s furlough scheme.
The report states the trust, like most leisure facilities, is facing significantly increased costs due to the cost-of-living crisis and the increase in the national minimum wage to the national living wage level.
Officers said activities to increase the trust’s income were no longer considered appropriate due to Covid-19 and that it is facing an £85,000 deficit this year.
The report states: “It is the view of senior management team that this increase in funding is required in order to secure the short to medium-term future of the pool and would enable the facility to be on a good footing for discussions about the future of leisure across North Yorkshire under the new North Yorkshire Council.”
Alongside increasing the council’s annual grant for the swimming pool to £313,000, the report also recommends the corporate board approves giving the trust £65,000 to cover the costs of the closure of the pool during the scheduled works, between July and November.
Opposition councillors said they appreciated the pool was an important facility for the district, but questioned whether such a large proportion of the council’s funds should be devoted to one facility.
Green councillor Kevin Foster questioned whether the trust or the authority had fully explored alternative funding streams for the facility.
Conservative group leader Councillor Yvonne Peacock added: “This seems like a tremendous amount of money and to be committing taxpayers’ money to for five years is a long time when the new unitary authority will be taking it over in April.”