Leisure trust bucks trend on cash flow

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WIGAN’S Leisure Trust is bucking the economic downturn, it’s been revealed.

It is on course to make a £1m surplus by the end of the next financial year. And the cash boost will be ploughed straight back into leisure services across the borough.

The figures are shown in a six-monthly performance and finance report - requested by opposition councillors who have complained about the alleged unaccountability of WLCT in the past.

Latest accounts show another £88,000 surplus for trading to the end of November, which includes money generated by its contracts with Wigan and Leigh Housing, Ashton, Leigh and Wigan NHS Primary Care Trust and fees for managing Selby’s leisure facilities in North Yorkshire.

However, director of places Gillian Bishop warned ruling councillors that WLCT was facing a challenging period in the short term including outstanding cost recovery items such as those associated with the disposal of the five leisure halls (including redundancies) and work to the Trencherfield Mill Engine.

Since 2003 Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust have managed the council’s six sports centre, six swimming pools, 16 libraries, a museum, 32 parks, two golf courses and nine cemeteries along with staff teams who deliver arts, play, health, youth and community development.

And during the current financial year they have been paid £14.8m in the form of the Community Service Fee to do so.

The last year has seen “good improvement” in the proportion of the borough population who are participating in sport - now up to 21.1 per cent - which halts the steady decline the indicator figure has shown since it was introduced in 2007 /2008.

However, the number of people visiting leisure centres across Wigan during the first six months of 2011/12 is down on the equivalent period last year, largely due to the axing of the free swimming scheme for under 65s.

The new Active Life facilities in Wigan Life Centre’s pool and gym has been attracting above expected numbers, while the number of people visiting Wigan’s parks is up for the sixth year in succession.

Visitor numbers at Haigh Hall’s Crawford golf course are lower but Pennington Flash course is up.

Trust chiefs say it is currently too soon to be able to analyse the effect on the number of library users of the recent re-organisation to accommodate £1.1m of Government cuts.

But they are able to reveal that visits to the Museum of Wigan Life are down by a quarter on the same time last year.

Mrs Bishop confirmed that there were “no areas of specific concern” about under performance of the trust. But certain services and some specific areas of their work will be reviewed over the next 12 months, in line with the on going budget cuts announced by the council.