The future of a community run leisure centre looks uncertain with Wrexham Council recommending a funding request is turned down.
Splash Community Trust who run Plas Madoc Leisure Centre had applied for a £100,000 grant over a two year period to help safeguard the future of the facility.
In a letter sent to all councillors, Chairman and Secretary of the Splash Trust said they are ‘in the position where we have had to inform all our employees that they are in danger of redundancy and that without support the Centre will have to close’.
Local AM Ken Skates is backing the request, noting in a letter the request is required as due to “…cash-flow issues the Trust continue to experience – largely because of the aforementioned inherited maintenance issues – mean they do not see a future for the facility if the council turns down this request” – the historic ‘severe damage and disrepair’ issues and resulting costs being put at the door of Wrexham Council.
However in a report due before Wrexham Council’s Executive Board on December 13th it has been recommended that the authority does not approve the grant application.
The report continues onto list five reasons for the recommendation to refuse the application:
- The request for £50,000 grant in year 2 would just bridge the current gap and not necessarily secure long term viability of the organisation.
- Welsh Government Communities Facilities funding is currently approved in principle. It is not clear how any matchfunding will be delivered and the impact of tenders being received which are higher than the level of grant.
- The matchfunding requirements for the replacement of the boilers in year 3 is not known. If £50,000 is needed for this then it cannot also be used to ease cashflow issues.
- The level of confidence in the financial and general governance arrangements of the organisation which had been raised with the Trust previously.
- The financial position as outlined by the external accountants in respect of the 2014/15 accounts.
The report is also accompanied by detailed accounts for Splash Magic / Plas Madoc. The Council report notes an operating deficit for the year of £13,639 , vastly different from the ‘over £500k a year loss‘ when under Council control.
Plas Madoc was set to close permanently after Wrexham Council announced that they could no longer keep the facility due to it running at a loss and ongoing budget cuts.
However in a u-turn in October 2014, Wrexham’s Executive Board voted in favour of handing over a 20 year lease to Plas Madoc Leisure Centre over to the Splash Magic Community Trust, along with a £50,000 grant to help kick start the reopening of the leisure centre.
The circulated documents also contain information on successes of Plas Madoc / Splash Magic so far, with some detailed below from the Trust:
- We are very proud of our achievements in our first nine months. We opened with eight members of staff and a loyal group of volunteers. We now employ 21 salaried staff, 20 part time staff, 11 freelance class instructors and have retained a large group of volunteers who continue to support the Centre. We are making a considerable contribution to the local economy, and are keeping an important facility open, in an area where it is much needed.
- Financially, the Centre has covered its daily running costs since opening. However, the cost of replacing equipment, updating and repairing fixtures is ongoing of which the Council’s initial grant has been a crucial part. As a Trust and a Registered Charity, we are in a position not available to the Council, by applying for grants, improving what is still a Council property. We have applied to the Community Facilities Fund for £432,000 to repair the roof, parts of the pool plant room and re-wire the electrical circuits of the whole Centre. Enabling us to create a much more valuable asset to be returned to the Council, at the end of the lease. A decision on our first stage application is due within the next 3 weeks.
- The pool area requires essential repair work on the slides and flume and the changing rooms require some replacement fixtures and fittings. We have been fundraising to cover the costs of re-opening the Steam Room and Sauna. But with the majority of the fixtures, fittings and equipment being anything up to forty-one years old, there is a steadily increasing list of costs, now that we are successfully attracting more customers.
- Utility costs are approximately £18,000 per month and as we re-open more of the Centre’s facilities, these costs will only increase. We are investigating the benefit of solar panels. We are very energy conscious and making every effort to save as much as we can, but these increasing costs could have the potential to swallow up any surplus.
- Splash Magic is not just a local Leisure Centre, it is so much more than that. Our visitors come from up to 50 miles away on a regular basis. Splash Magic is a Visitor Destination and those coming for a day out will not only visit the Centre, but will venture to surrounding areas and Wrexham, making the most of their visit, providing a much needed boost to the local economy. Many visitors in neighbouring counties come to the Wrexham area from Cheshire and the Wirral, Shropshire, Denbighshire and Powys.
- The Centre has brought in over 75,000 visitors to the area in just 8 months. The impact on the local economy will be evident. Approximately 85% of those visitors arrive by car, potentially also using the local petrol stations, shops, cafes, restaurants and holiday accommodation.
The report will be debated at the Wrexham Council Executive Board at 10am on Tuesday 13 December. For those who can’t make the meeting but would like to see democracy in action it will be webcast on the Wrexham Council website.