Falkirk Council taking ‘too long’ to carry out repairs at leisure facilities

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Vital income is being lost for the district’s leisure facilities because Falkirk Council is taking too long to make any repairs.

A top official at Falkirk Community Trust made the claims as he was being quizzed by councillors on how the organisation spends its cash.

Members of the council’s Scrutiny Committee asked FCT’s general manager Neil Brown why floodlights on the Bo’ness football pitches had been broken for 18 months before finally being fixed, while a repair to the sauna in Bo’ness health and fitness centre also took months.

He said the Trust had reported it to the council team responsible for repairs but it had not been fixed quickly because “we’re not quite on their priority list”.

“You’re right – it was  unacceptable,” he told councillors.

Bo’ness councillors were quizzing Mr Brown on statistics that showed attendances at Bo’ness Recreation Centre had missed their target by 30.8 per cent.

The centre was the centre of a political storm in June when proposals were revealed to slash the funds the Trust gets from the council and change the way it delivers services.

That included closing older buildings such as the Rec centre and expanding facilities in local high schools instead.

Bo’ness Labour councillor David Aitchison said many people had told him that when they tried to book for the facility they were directed to Falkirk instead and he wondered if it was a “deliberate ploy” to reduce numbers.

Depute Provost Anne Ritchie (SNP) said it had actually happened to her when she had tried to book a class for her grandson.

She asked Mr Brown to reassure people that the centre was not closing, which he did.

He said: “Yes, it was in the papers but the whole context was that it’s part of the growth and restructure of facilities.”

But Mr Brown said that “rumours and misinterpretation” about the future of the recreation centre had hit the Bo’ness facility badly, with some companies refusing to advertise there because they had heard it was closing.

Mr Brown, however, admitted there were huge financial pressures and that a “key risk” to the Trust lay in the deterioration of facilities, which are operated by the Trust but owned by Falkirk Council

He denied it was a problem for Bo’ness in particular, saying: “If you ask the people of Hallglen, I don’t think they would agree it’s just Bo’ness.”

“If you look at the recent building failure at Hallglen Sports Centre, that was only a matter of time.

“We remain concerned that other facilities are in a similar position.”

The proposal to cut the Trust’s budget and close some services to invest in others was defeated at a Falkirk Council meeting by opposition councillors unhappy at the lack of consultation with communities.

The result was an online consultation and focus groups to look at the details.

Speaking after the meeting, Councillor Ann Ritchie said it was vital for people to take part in the consultation to let Falkirk Council know their thoughts.