Closure plans for Falkirk district centres put on hold

PicGrangemouth Town Hall has been earmarked for closure as Falkirk Community Trust looks to save money
PicGrangemouth Town Hall has been earmarked for closure as Falkirk Community Trust looks to save money

Councillors have delivered some Christmas cheer to the charity trust that runs the district’s town halls and leisure facilities.

The future of public buildings including Grangemouth Town Hall and Hallglen Sports Centre operated by Falkirk Community Trust are under threat from cuts with around 60 jobs at risk.

But now it has been agreed to put possible closures on hold and give the trust more time to produce a revised business plan for Falkirk Council to consider next year that could avoid them.

Councillor Adrian Mahoney, culture, leisure and tourism spokesman, moved its proposals for ‘facility withdrawal’ be deferred until August 2016.

He said: “The trust was not happy at having to put those proposals forward. These facilities are valued by our communities.”

The council has to find savings of £18 million next year and the trust is expected to contribute £1.2 million towards that.

Last month it said closing Grangemouth Town Hall, Hallglen Sports Centre and Denny Football Centre and restricting the use of Woodlands Games Hall to pupils at Comely Park Primary School could trim £218,000 off its costs.

The move, along with reducing opening hours at other venues including Callendar House, cutting its marketing budget and changing staff terms and conditions would take the total to just under £1.5 million.

At its meeting last week the council was told that in real terms closing facilities the trust leases from the local authority would only generate £97,000 worth of savings because the benefits of rates relief the trust enjoys as a charity would be lost.

The trust has tried to manage the impact of the council’s reduced funding commitment by increasing income, achieving efficiences and introducing limited service reductions while growing the overall business and services offered to the community.

But it now proposes to meet the savings now needed by looking at staffing costs and asset rationalisation given the significant proportion of the trust’s budget they represent.

When it presented its business plan for next year, trust chairman Ian Scott admitted: “The board and management have spent hours preparing a raft of different proposals. No-one wants to see closures, but we must look at the services we offer that have the potential to grow income.”

Trust chief executive Maureen Campbell said: “Until now, despite reductions in our funding we have been able to maintain services because we have increased income by 46 per cent. Cuts are not something we want, but something we must do to meet our targets.”

But council officers have said there is “scope” to consider a more strategic way forward.

Councillor Mahoney said: “The trust has already made savings over the years and we should pause and consider all the options particularly with regard to closures.”

Grangemouth Councillor Baillie Joan Paterson backed Councillor Mahoney’s proposal.

She said; “The potential closure of Grangemouth Town Hall is a cut too far. The building is not only the geographical heart of the town, but in the heart of the people of Grangemouth.”

The SNP called for a complete review of the way the trust operates.

Group leader Councillor Cecil Meiklejohn said: “That is what is required. There are serious concerns that the trust cannot meet its business objectives.”