Culture idea may save £1m

LEISURE centres and libraries could be placed in a not-for-profit charitable trust in a bid to safeguard services amid budget cuts.

Durham County Council’s cabinet members will meet next Wednesday to consider possible methods to retain leisure and culture services despite needing to save at least £145.8m over the next five years.

One option is for the authority to place such venues in a not-for-profit charitable trust, or a Non-Profit Distributing Organisation (NPDO).

The Cabinet is being asked “in principal” to consider agreeing to the change, which the authority says has significant financial advantages and could save more than £1m a year.

The Cabinet member for leisure, libraries and lifelong learning, Councillor Maria Plews, said: “In these difficult times the status quo is almost certainly unsustainable and a trust like this could prove the best way to protect and even improve these services.

“Whilst we are currently considering the full range of sport, leisure, cultural and library services further consideration will be given to exactly which areas will transfer prior to a final decision in the autumn.

“In depth research will ensure we follow a tried and tested line which will deliver the best service for residents and the financial savings we have no choice but to make.”

An NPDO would have trustees and a management board but the council would retain influence over the services provided and ownership of the buildings and assets.

Other benefits could include more opportunities to access grants not usually available to the council and more opportunities for community involvement.