“Complex” contract which needed unpicking

The World Student Games is the political ball often kicked around the council chamber.

Friday, 25th October 2019, 1:24 pm
Updated Tuesday, 29th October 2019, 2:39 pm
The World Student Games

The Games were held in Sheffield 28 years ago but have a controversial legacy.

New venues were built to stage the Games – Don Valley Stadium, Ponds Forge Swimming Pool and the Sheffield Arena.

Smaller leisure centres such as Concord and Springs were then absorbed into what council officers describe as a complex contract, under the management of Sheffield International Venues.

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Eugene Walker, executive director of resources, told a scrutiny meeting: “The assets we own and SIV run are in several chunks. It goes back a long time originating around the major assets of Ponds Forge and the Arena.

“Since that time there have been a number of separate agreements for SIV to become the operator of our leisure facilities.

“Some of the smaller facilities like Concord and Springs are not within that very complex legal and financial arrangement but over the years arrangements have been put in place to transfer the management of them, and other facilities like the City Hall.

“We actually have several different agreements with SIV with different terms. Some of the original ones are backed by these very complex arrangements, others are on a different basis.”

Mr Walker said the complexities dated back almost 30 years. The trust started in 1987 and the construction phase led to the opening of the facilities for the World Student Games in 1991.

“There’s a long-term thing when it was set up as an independent charity, not to be within the council’s control,” he saud,

“That was really important in the 1990s because if had been under council control, the Government would have counted its spending as part of ours and there were some very tight controls on that.

“The small amount of observation was deliberately geared so we didn’t have control of that organisation and it is an independent charity.”

The facilities were financed with a bond which the council says “was a means to an end” at the time because money was very heavily controlled by government.

The arrangement between the council and trust comes to an end in 2024.

Ryan Keyworth, director of finance and commercial services, said: “We have completed the work we needed to do to unpick the relationship. It allows us, and this is a careful decision, to unpick that relationship at any time.

“We have been able to work out how to do it before the natural end, if that’s what we need to do. It’s very difficult for either the council or the trust to act independently.

“The complex nature of the original agreements means we need to act together to minimise the risk of facilities closing.

“Part of the decision is about getting very clear about what the current situation is. Having to put millions of pounds into these facilities is not an ideal situation but what we are proposing is something that will keep the facilities open and keep the trust operational until we can decide what the best course of action is longer term.”