West Lothian Leisure (WLL) has requested the council's consent to close four facilities that they currently operate.
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 recently 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 Xcite 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.
An update was presented to the Council Executive which confirmed that work is underway to explore alternative commercial and community options for running Howden Park Centre, and a number of swimming pools, with other interested parties including key community user groups.
The council has also agreed to provide £20,000 each month until the end of March 2024 to ensure Howden Park Centre remains open, and is able to honour existing bookings. The funding is intended to help ensure a smooth transition to an alternative potential operator.
Leader of West Lothian Council Lawrence Fitzpatrick said: "The council today agreed that one off funding of £20,000 per month from the start of September will be available until the end of March 2024 to support the operation of the centre for the remainder of the financial year.
"This is due to the unique nature of Howden Park in requiring a future programme of events, which had been arranged in advance of WLL's announcement on 3 May that they seek to close Howden Park.
"This will ensure that a full programme of events is maintained and deliver a smooth transition to any potential operator approved following conclusion of the current process of exploring alternative options for running Howden Park Centre.
"The financial situation affecting local public services is at a critical stage and the insufficient levels of funding that we receive, combined with increasing costs, are simply not sustainable. The levels of funding that we receive are simply not enough to enable us to protect all current services in the future."
Depute Council Leader, Kirsteen Sullivan, added: "No stone will be left unturned to look at alternative options. 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 will go to the Scottish Government in 2023/24 and, to date, no funding has been provided by the Scottish Government to specifically support swimming pools in Scotland.
"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 written 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. We hope the Minister responds as a matter of urgency."
The report also confirms that officers are currently seeking expressions of initial high level interest in relation to the future operation of the four facilities.
The council is working to identify credible alternative commercial and community options for continued provision of services with other interested parties, and to explore whether credible and viable alternative options exist for the retention of facilities.
Interested parties are invited to register their interest by 26 May 2023 online at: https://www.westlothian.gov.uk/interest
Once that date has passed, officers will review all registered interests. Where a viable expression of interest has been received, officers will engage with relevant representatives to explore the interest further and discuss related matters in more detail.
Suitable parties will then be invited to prepare and submit updated proposals for consideration, and will be given suitable time to complete this process.