‘End game’ for Sheffield City Trust as all leisure and entertainment facilities to be handed back to council

Sheffield City Trust has avoided insolvency with a £7 million bailout from Sheffield Council and it will hand back all of the city’s major facilities within two years.

Wednesday, 16th March 2022, 12:11 pm

It follows years of financial struggles at the Trust, also known as SCT, over which time the council has kept it afloat with millions in taxpayer money.

The Trust has run the city’s major facilities – including Sheffield Arena, City Hall, Ponds Forge and the English Institute of Sport – for more than 30 years.

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Sheffield City Hall is one of the major facilities currently run by Sheffield City Trust.

But it will give them all back to the council on a provisional date of August 31, 2024, a council report revealed.

Councillor Shaffaq Mohammed, leader of Sheffield Liberal Democrats who have been critical of the council’s relationship with the charity for several years, said it was “end game” for SCT.

He said: “Sheffield City Council has finally called time on SCT.

“However, the taxpayers of Sheffield will be hit at least one more time. We are going to foot the pension deficit and there is a £7 million budget gap that we will have to foot too. It is yet more valuable council tax spent on this now soon to be defunct organisation.

Ponds Forge, in the city centre, is one of the major sporting facilities currently run by Sheffield City Trust.

“How long can this continue when the council says it hasn’t got money to run other essential services. It seems whenever SCT comes cap in hand they always just hand over the money. There seems to be no bounds to how much council tax subsidy SCT gets.”

He added: “Clearly lessons have to be learned. Going forward, whoever is the provider of our leisure services, I would strongly suggest that we split this organisation up so we don’t have someone running, for example, Sheffield Arena who also runs the golf course because they are a different set of skills.”

Despite the Trust recently stating that “business was booming”, officers said in the report that the Trust’s current funding arrangements with the council were not sufficient to provide the level of security it needs to lawfully continue trading.

A new funding agreement has therefore been agreed to keep the Trust going until it hands back the facilities.

Councillor Shaffaq Mohammed, leader of Sheffield Liberal Democrats has been critical of Sheffield Council's relationship with Sheffield City Trust.

As well as a £4 million pension deficit, there is a £7 million gap which will be funded by council grants. Of that, £3 million has already been provided and the remaining £4 million will come from a reserve that was set up in 2020 to deal with expected future costs of SCT.

Council officers said: “It avoids a potential insolvency situation that could have significant impact on the delivery of these services in the short to medium term.”

Officers said the business plan proposed by the Trust is considered to be “very prudent”.

Andrew Snelling, chief executive of Sheffield City Trust

The local authority will scrutinise, update and agree on a regular basis to ensure this new funding agreement remains affordable for the council.

Sheffield Council’s plans for the future of facilities

Sheffield Council is in the process of putting the facilities out to tender with a £100 million investment over the next 30 years.

Sheffield City Trust has confirmed it will not bid for the contract and it is not yet known who could take them on from 2024.

The full latest council report can be read here: https://democracy.sheffield.gov.uk/documents/s50810/Form%202%20-%20Executive%20Report%20SCT%20Funding%20-%20Final.pdf