West Lothian Leisure is seeking consent to close:
- Broxburn Swimming Pool
- Xcite Armadale
- Xcite Livingston (Bubbles)
- Howden Park Centre, Livingston.
A report presented to the Council Executive today has confirmed that all four facilities currently make a significant monthly financial loss and, if the facilities do not close, West Lothian Leisure faces the risk of insolvency, which would risk the closure of all their Xctie facilities
The four facilities also require significant and immediate sums of capital funding to bring them up to standard.
The council's core capital grant has been reduced significantly by the Scottish Government.
Given the level of expenditure required, the funding to modernise and then operate the four facilities is not currently available. As such, the continued operation of the four facilities is unsustainable. The Leisure Trust aim to close the facilities by the end of August 2023.
The report discussed at today's Council Executive was discussed in private due to the financial and commercial information contained in the report.
Similar to West Lothian Council, West Lothian Leisure face significant increases in running costs, combined with reductions in funding. This has worsened because of the rising costs in energy and the vast amounts of energy required to keep swimming pools operational. West Lothian Leisure manage and run the facilities on behalf of West Lothian Council.
WLL face significant cost pressures in the current financial year and they must make immediate and significant changes to their business model to address the existing deficit in their budget. West Lothian Council has continued to provide the Leisure Trust with funding to enable it to trade with its current level of services. Given the scale of the financial pressures that the council faces, the council can no longer afford to continue to provide WLL with the same level of financial support.
Currently, WLL has a budget deficit of totalling £2.95 million from 2023/4 to 2027/28 and require to make savings of £1.185 million for this year alone. In February, WLL's Board approved a programme of mitigating actions to bridge their budget deficit.
West Lothian Leisure believe that by closing these four facilities, they will secure the future of their remaining facilities. If the consent is granted, West Lothian will continue to have 15 public swimming pools in operation, more than double the Scottish average compared to other local authority areas. West Lothian currently has two dedicated public owned Arts venues.
There is no reduction in the WLL Management fee in 2023/24 but the council agreed in February to reduce WLL's Management fee by £1.75 over the next five years and support West Lothian Leisure (WLL) to become fully self-funded with no requirement for a management fee from the council. This is being done on a phased approach over the next four years to assist West Lothian Leisure carry out their service re-design.
The council has confirmed that it will continue to fund the provision of the Learn to Swim programme for primary school pupils and also provide support for future maintenance costs for the facilities operated by WLL. The council will provide £180,000 per year to WLL as a contribution to its facilities repairs and maintenance programme
The Council Executive has (today) instructed council officers to:
- engage with WL Leisure to explore whether alternative options exist for the retention of facilities to include in the report.
- engage with WL Leisure explore alternative commercial and community options for continued provision of services with other interested parties including key groups.
- address members' questions and concerns and provide further information
- bring back a report to the meeting of the Council Executive on 23 May to provide an update and further information.
Council Executive has also instructed the council's Chief Executive to write to Maree Todd MSP, Minister for Social Care, Mental Wellbeing and Sport to request funding to swimming pool operators to support the retention of swimming pools and leisure venues in local communities, such as West Lothian. The council will also write to all West Lothian constituency MSPs and MPs to request that they write to the Minister to demand funding to enable the retention of local swimming pools and leisure facilities in West Lothian.
Depute Council Leader, Kirsteen Sullivan, who put forward a motion requesting additional funding, said: "No stone should be left unturned to look at alternative options and we require more information. We are all extremely saddened and disappointed that WLL are in this position.
"I believe it is worth exploring that, in the Spring budget earlier this year, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced funding of £63 million to support swimming pools remaining open in England. Around £70 million of Barnett consequentials in total will go to the Scottish Government and, to date, no funding has been provided by the Scottish Government to specifically support swimming pools.
"In light of the recent request from West Lothian Leisure, and given the gravity of the situation, with the needs of the community and jobs at stake, we have asked the Chief Executive to write to the Cabinet Minister requesting funding support.
"Given the serious financial situation that West Lothian leisure are in, there is a need for West Lothian Council to respond to the request from the Board of West Lothian Leisure in the near future. Therefore, the Minister is requested to respond as a matter of urgency."
West Lothian Council faces a budget gap caused by increasing costs and insufficient levels of Scottish Government grant funding. The Scottish Government provides the council with 80% of its budget and reductions in local government public spending have impacted council services for over 15 years. Since 2007 the council has been forced to make £150 million worth of savings and the council now face further savings of £39.4 million over the next five years.
Leader of West Lothian Council, Lawrence Fitzpatrick said:
"This is a grave situation for WLL and it is a stark reminder that a lack of funding from the Scottish Government is playing a significant and devastating part in the downgrading of local services in West Lothian. It is imperative that additional funding is provided to ensure local services are able to continue. If not, the consequences could be dire."
West Lothian pools
According to recent figures, West Lothian currently has the highest number of swimming pools of any 32 council areas (per head of population) in Scotland.
The data was published by the BBC last year.
Last week, West Lothian Leisure confirmed that they had sought consent from West Lothian Council to close 4 venues, namely Xcite Livingston, Xcite Broxburn Swimming Pool, Xcite Armadale and Howden Park Centre.
West Lothian Council is now considering the request.
All four facilities currently make a significant financial loss and, if the facilities do not close, West Lothian Leisure faces the risk of insolvency, which would risk the closure of all their facilities.
With three fewer pools, West Lothian would continue to have (16 pools) more than double the Scottish average (7). Source; BBC.
Should Xcite Armadale, Xcite Livingston and Broxburn swimming pools close, the following pools would remain open in West Lothian.
- Inveralmond CHS
- Broxburn Academy
- Winchburgh Academy
- Armadale Academy
- Deans CHS
- St Kentigern's Academy
- Bathgate Academy
- Linlithgow Academy
- The James Young High School
- Fauldhouse Partnership Centre
- St Margaret's Academy
- Whitburn Academy
- West Calder High School
- Xcite Linlithgow
- Xcite Bathgate
- Xcite Whitburn
The council has provided a commitment to continue to work with WLL to improve public and community club access to suitable school swimming pools.
West Lothian Leisure has confirmed that the Learn2Swim programme will continue and will not be reduced. Alternative venues will be offered to those affected by the closures.