Falkirk Community Trust spent more than it earned in 2018/19 as council cuts cash

Attendances may have dropped at Falkirk Community Trust venues but the amount of money it made has increased as it looks forward to engaging more customers.

Monday, 2nd September 2019, 12:50 pm
The Mariner Centre is one of the community trusts biggest money spinners
The Mariner Centre is one of the community trusts biggest money spinners

According to the trust’s annual report for 2018/19 the number of people coming through the doors of leisure centres and other facilities the organisation is responsible for fell from 3.9 million to 3.7 million in the space of 12 months.

On the plus side the income generated by the trust increased from £6.7 million to £7.4 million and, of that total, £1.6 million was coined in by health and fitness facilities – by far the biggest money spinner for the trust.

However, while the organisation made £19.4 million in 2018/19, it also spent £19.8 million.

Falkirk Council gave the trust an £11.4 million service payment in 2017/18, but this fell to £10.8 million in 2018/19 and will be further reduced in coming years.

The annual report was discussed at meeting of Falkirk Community Trust board in Callander House – one of the venues it runs – last week.

Board chairman David White said: “We have a £19.4 million income annually – it’s quite a substantial business we are running here. Our turnover is now over two million.

“In a time of declining subsidies from Falkirk Council we have actually been able to grow the business and that’s a trend we hope to continue in the future.”

In the annual report Mr White states: “A main focus for the board in 2018 was the development of a new five year business strategy to set a strategic direction for the trust that takes us through 2024.

“The strategy accepts we are transitioning towards playing a more facilitating role in the community – expecting we will soon be operating with much less funding and from fewer venues.

“We need this strategy to enable us to plan for a reduction of £5.5 million of funding from Falkirk Council over five years.”

New board member Councillor John McLuckie raised concerns about the trust’s pursuit of funding,

“We don’t seem to go and get the funding that other community groups do,” he said.

It was stated the trust, which managed to attract £567,000 of funding in 2018/19, often works to assist other organisations, sports and community groups, to secure funding and this does not show up on the Trust’s accounts.

In 2018/19 the board used £394,000 of its reserves to pay for previously agreed business growth projects – including the Mariner Centre’s soft play area and the creation of the Carron Gymnastics Centre.

Maureen Campbell, Trust chief executive, said: “At the end of the day we need to have customers who want to come and use our facilities – we need to be relevant to the customers and need to make sure the services we are developing are customer focussed.

“In our business strategy we identified the need to introduce smarter contracting and borrowing routes and to make greater use of strategic frameworks and partnering with leisure developers.

“With welcome support from the council we made use of this new approach to begin to take forward the next phase of our business growth plans at the Mariner Centre and Stenhousemuir Gym.”