Sheffield Council invest £3 million to save city leisure facilities

Sheffield Council will invest £3 million into the city’s leisure trust to keep venues like the City Hall and Sheffield Arena open after it struggled to balance its books.

Friday, 18th October 2019, 11:23 am
Updated Friday, 18th October 2019, 5:24 pm
Andrew Snelling, chief executive of SIV
Andrew Snelling, chief executive of SIV

Sheffield City Trust, also known as SIV, has been losing a significant amount of income in recent years, with an average yearly deficit of £2.8 million.

The trust, which formed in 1987 for the World Student Games, looks after 17 facilities including Ponds Forge, Hillsborough Leisure Centre, Sheffield Arena and City Hall.

The council’s decision follows an independent review into SIV’s finances which was launched when they asked for a ‘special urgency’ £1 million loan from the council earlier this year.

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The council said the review has not yet been finalised but the core findings were ‘clear.’

In the report, officers said: “More cash is being spent than is received and will ultimately drain SCT’s bank balance if no subsides exist to fill the gap.”

They said they ‘needed’ to provide £3 million over the next 18 months to keep venues open and expected further calls for support in the near future. They added that the £3 million would only go towards covering the most essential works and provide time to develop a long term plan and would be additional to any revenue support to cover SIV’s trading losses.

The council previously agreed with SIV to stop subsidies altogether by 2020 but now say this is ‘unachievable’.

SIV put troubles down to competition with Leeds Arena and low cost gyms as well as austerity which has caused councils to cut their funding to SIV.

The amount of funding they receive from Sheffield Council, Scarborough Borough Council and Derby Council – where they also look after venues – has been cut by £3,732,000 between 2018 and 2016.

In their plans to plug the losses and save the city’s leisure facilities they are looking at a ‘new look and feel’ to their services and said significant work was needed to keep venues ‘fit for purpose’.

City Hall and Sheffield Arena were identified as the two biggest challenges and venues which needed the most improvement.

One of the ‘key findings’ from the report said SIV failed to provide reliable reports on their financial position and did not have a well-developed cash flow model.

Sheffield Council said it would be ‘crucial’ to keep constant communication with the trust going forward.

Further work has been commissioned for a long term plan to keep SIV running. A draft vision due in January and strategy due in April 2020. The council said there was also an opportunity to apply for Sport England support.

The report will be discussed at an economic and environmental scrutiny committee meeting next Tuesday, from 4pm.