Sheffield Council to review its relationship with Sheffield City Trust

Sheffield Council is reviewing how sports and leisure facilities are run in the city amid concern about how much it is costing.

Friday, 5th November 2021, 1:30 pm

Currently, Sheffield City Trust (SCT) runs all of the major leisure spots in the city – including Ponds Forge, the English Institute of Sport (EISS) and iceSheffield – alongside the biggest entertainment venues including City Hall and Sheffield Arena on behalf of the council.

But the council’s current arrangement with SCT is coming to an end in 2024 so it said there is a need to review who runs the facilities and and how they are run.

A notice published on the council’s website shows there are three options the authority is considering: bringing leisure services in-house and managing them from within the council, establishing a local authority trading company to operate the services or appoint an external partner through a tender exercise.

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Sheffield Council is reviewing its relationship with Sheffield City Trust and drawing up a new leisure strategy. Sheffield City Trust currently runs the major leisure facilities including Ponds Forge, English Institute of Sport and iceSheffield.

It comes amid serious concern about the amount of money the council is spending on leisure and warnings from officers that the council needs to “drastically” reduce its subsidy.

The council had an overspend of £12.8 million on leisure last year which helped facilities reopen after being closed for Covid-19 lockdowns.

When the current budget was approved earlier this year, Ryan Keyworth, director of finance, said: “We are hoping that ongoing subsidy won’t be needed beyond the next financial year but we will obviously come back to members if that is the case.”

In a report recently published by the council, officers warned leisure will become a serious problem if subsidy levels do not reduce from the current £15 million budgeted to around £3 million.

Sheffield Council is reviewing its relationship with Sheffield City Trust and drawing up a new leisure strategy. Sheffield City Trust currently runs the major leisure facilities including Ponds Forge, English Institute of Sport and iceSheffield.

However, facilities are also in need of significant investment in order to be modern, welcoming, accessible and inclusive.

The council said it had explored management and investment options to achieve the most cost effective way to operate facilities while ensuring they are fit for purpose, affordable, sustainable and give the council better control over the services that are delivered than under the current arrangements.

A report on the review is due to be published on November 9 ahead of a co-operative executive meeting on November 17 but part of it will not be published because it includes exempt information relating to business affairs.

The Liberal Democrats said the management of leisure venues should be overhauled.

Sheffield Council is reviewing its relationship with Sheffield City Trust and drawing up a new leisure strategy. Sheffield City Trust currently runs the major leisure facilities including Ponds Forge, English Institute of Sport and iceSheffield.

Liberal Democrat councillor Martin Smith said: “We have been raising concerns about the decision making and financial sustainability of SCT for several years.

“It’s good to see the executive is finally taking our lead and reviewing its relationship with the Trust but why has it taken them so long? Millions have been spent over the last few years to keep the Trust going and the latest document says it will need even more money in the future.”

Coun Simon Clement-Jones said: “The council must explore their options fully in order to achieve the most cost-effective way to operate these facilities whilst ensuring they are run for the benefit of all Sheffielders.”