Sheffield Council bailed out leisure trust with £1 million

The group that oversees Sheffield’s major venues including the FlyDSA Arena, Ponds Forge, Hillsborough Leisure Centre and the City Hall has been bailed out by the council with a £1 million loan.

By Molly Williams
Monday, 12 August, 2019, 11:52
Ponds Forge.

The ‘special urgency’ decision was made after Sheffield City Trust failed to bring in enough money.

The trust, formed in 1987, looks after 17 facilities through its wholly-owned subsidiary Sheffield International Venues. An independent review into its finances has now been ordered by the council.

Sheffield Council chief executive John Mothersole said: “In June Sheffield City Trust approached the council to request cash flow support and a loan for £1 million was subsequently approved.”

John Mothersole

Council leader Julie Dore said that, without the bailout, the trust may have been forced to consider closing a venue or shortening opening hours.

She said: “They are looking at different ways to attract more customers to using the facilities rather than going to pop-up gyms, so that’s what they are competing with really.

“If they closed a swimming pool there wouldn’t be a need for this because it costs a lot of money to maintain, but as a city we have to decide if the access to public swimming pools are important to the people of Sheffield and I would say absolutely.

“I’ve always said in tough times it’s important that people have leisure. I think it’s a necessity but if you compare that with social care there’s no competition ,but we should be able to do everything.”

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Councillor Douglas Johnson

Coun Douglas Johnson, leader of the Green Party, said he had written to Coun Olivia Blake, cabinet member for finance, about the latest problems.

He said the loan would have ‘diverted away from other council spending’.

“This should be open to public scrutiny,” said Coun Johnson.

“It is important that these facilities are run better. We are calling for a clear plan to improve the management of these facilities for the public. I have therefore written to the deputy leader with these requests.”

Ponds Forge

Andrew Snelling, chief executive of Sheffield City Trust, said: “We can confirm that we requested, and subsequently received, a temporary cashflow loan of £1 million from Sheffield City Council.

“The council regularly works with Sheffield City Trust Group to assist with the operation of its venues in Sheffield, which included the provision of high-quality, affordable sports facilities for thousands of people in Sheffield and the surrounding areas.” He added the trust was ‘very happy to co-operate with Sheffield Council in supporting their due process’ with the review.