Transfer of sports services given green light by councillors

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THE transfer of Scottish Borders Council’s sports services to Borders Sport and Leisure Trust has been backed by councillors, writes Kenny Paterson.

As revealed earlier this month by TheSouthern, an integrated sports trust will now be formed which sees SBC’s sports development and active schools services move across to the control of the region’s biggest sports organisation.

However, outdoor education and adventure sports shall remain in the council’s remit in order to meet statutory responsibilities for school trips and specific curriculum needs.

SBC leader David Parker said: “The Borders Sport and Leisure Trust has been a success story which has developed well since transfer. It was always our intention at the appropriate point in the future to transfer these services to BSLT and I am confident that now is the right time.

“I have no doubt that sport in the Borders will continue to grow and be well supported in the future.”

Fears were raised over the move by Hawick councillor David Paterson, who worried what would happened in the event of BSLT experiencing financial difficulties. But the report provided to councillors said that a sports facility could be transferred back to SBC if BSLT could not fund major repairs.

SBC’s education chief, Glenn Rodger, who earlier this month said the transfer would not result in any job losses, maintained the move made “good sense”.

Mr Rodger added this week: “SBC and BSLT are key partners and we are moving into a new exciting era.

“We are in no doubt that, with the current stringent economic climate, the next five to 10 years will be a major challenge.

“We have to think differently if we are to retain and improve our services.

“An integrated sports trust is a sound model for the future – we believe that it will work and deliver improved services to the people of the Borders.”

Tony Taylor, chairman of BSLT, said: “This is a move that has occurred across Scotland and has proven to be successful, and we are very pleased that Borders councillors have shown foresight in the potential this transfer has for improving sport and leisure in the Borders.”

Mr Taylor added that since BSLT took control of 10 facilities in the region in 2003, the trust has managed to attract nearly £1million in funding.

He added: “We are again in challenging financial times across the country which will not change in the near future, but we remain an ambitious non-profit-making organisation that wants the best for the Borders.”

Under the transfer arrangement, SBC will lease the Queen’s Centre in Galashiels to BSLT and provide £250,000 per year for the next five years to the trust.

Active schools, sports development and outdoor education and adventure sports currently come under SHAPE services, which is part of SBC’s education department.

SHAPE’s budget for 2010/11 was £2.65million, with around £1.5million handed out in management fees to BSLT.

The 2011/12 budget is due to reduce to £2.52million, with BSLT’s management fee remaining at around £1.5million.

The transfer is due to take place on July 1.