Rodger moves to allay fears for jobs as SBC looks to transfer sports services

THERE will be no job losses should Scottish Borders Council transfer its sports services to the region’s biggest sports organisation, according to the local authority’s education chief.

Glenn Rodger made the assurance after TheSouthern received a draft business case for an Integrated Sports Trust (IST).

The document recommends the switch of SBC’s sports development and active schools services – which employ around 20 people – to the Borders Sport and Leisure Trust (BSLT).

The report will go before councillors on March 24 and if approved, the transfer will go ahead on July 1.

Mr Rodger, who has headed the project, told TheSouthern: “There is no question of any jobs being lost.

“The vast majority of the facilities in the Borders are run through BSLT. It makes sense in the long term for BSLT, sports development and active schools services to be run under the one umbrella in order to maximise the use of facilities.”

But Mr Rodger, who said the move would be fully funded by SBC, did not rule out future savings.

He added: “We think efficiencies could be made along the way as often happens when an integrated trust is formed.

“I think we are all in the business of doing things better. We know the financial situation is not going to get better. The trust model is more the norm now than the exception. Across Scotland it is used, including Edinburgh and Glasgow.”

The director of education and lifelong learning said unions had been consulted on the proposal and one-to-one meetings would be arranged between affected staff and HR specialists.

He added that, if the move is approved, SBC and BSLT employees would work together in the coming months to prepare for the July 1 switch.

The IST project is separate from Kit Campbell’s recommendations on the future of the region’s sports facilities.

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

Of SHAPE’s £2.65million budget for 2010/11, around £1.5million was handed out in management fees to BSLT, £117,133 to active schools and £651,879 for sports development.

The report suggests outdoor education and adventure sports should remain in the council’s remit in order to meet statutory responsibilities for school trips and specific curriculum needs.

It claims sports development and active schools could face major cuts if left in the hands of cash-strapped SBC, and TheSouthern understands the transfer would help the trust access more funding. The report added: “Prolonged underinvestment has resulted in service decline and consequent underperformance. The services are becoming increasingly vulnerable.

“These challenges are particularly acute now, when local government budgets are under severe threat.”

The report says set-up costs of an IST would not be significant and a post within the council would be retained to manage the relationship with BSLT.

But the paper also recognised that should the trust fail, it would prove costly for SBC to rescue.

Hawick councillor David Paterson fears such a scenario, and opposes the business case’s recommendation.

He added: “I know that Border Sports and Leisure Trust have performed well since taking over the leisure centre in Hawick, but I am concerned that it is too much (taken out of SBC’s control).

“What if they have got it wrong? I feel there will be far too many decisions of very great importance – that will effect many lives – being taken behind closed doors.”

A BSLT spokesman said: “We would fully support a transfer of SBC’s sports development and active schools units to Borders Sport and Leisure Trust.”