Work with council to save sport
Posted on: Thursday 14 November 2019
The Cabinet of Bridgend County Borough Council has agreed that the authority can no longer afford to subsidise sports pitches, playing fields and pavilions following ‘ten years of suffering cuts and being forced to set austerity budgets’.
But Cabinet members have also stressed that the council wants to work alongside clubs and use its asset transfer programme to save community sport.
The authority, which currently subsidises sports facilities by up to 80 per cent, has promised that while an increase in fees and a move towards full-cost recovery will begin in 2020, it will only affect clubs who do not wish to take part in the community asset transfer process.
Since making the announcement, the council has confirmed that it has streamlined its community asset transfer process and is at various stages of talks with all but one local sports club, as well as the majority of town and community councils.
One £500,000 transfer has been completed, eight are almost ready to be signed off, 18 are currently under development, and more than 20 expressions of interest have been received.
The asset transfer process, which enables clubs and other organisations to take over the direct management of local facilities, has already proven to be hugely successful at Bryncethin Rugby Club where it has resulted in a refurbished pavilion, new community facilities and more.
A £1m fund is in place to support the transfer process, and Cabinet members have agreed to propose that a new annual transitional fund of around £75,000 is set up to support the mini, junior and youth teams which make up two-thirds of all local sports clubs.
Nobody wants to be in this position, but it is not enough to put your head in the sand and simply say ‘I want things to remain the same’ without presenting a viable or realistic alternative plan, which so far nobody has done. The reality is that unless we do something now, facilities will start to close in a year’s time, and community sport as we know it will begin to die out.
This is about finding a sustainable, long-term solution which will preserve community sport amid a climate of national austerity that has already forced us to cover a £27m shortfall in the money we receive and use to provide local services. While we sympathise with clubs and the users of our sports facilities and truly wish that the situation was different, the reality remains that we are facing a further shortfall of £36m over the next four years.
After ten years of suffering cuts, being forced to set austerity budgets and with an even larger funding shortfall still ahead of us, there is no way we can afford to continue to provide subsidies of up to 80 per cent. But we are eager and willing to engage with local clubs, town and community councils and other organisations, and remain very flexible about how we can work together to meet this challenge head-on.Councillor Richard Young, Cabinet Member for Communities
Council Leader Huw David added: “Any club which is committed towards a community asset transfer process will not be subject to the new fees when they begin in September 2020.
“We have to find new ways of providing services while prioritising support for vulnerable children and older people, but we cannot do it alone.
“We need clubs, town and community councils and other organisations to come and talk to us, find out more about the asset transfer process, and look at ways in which they can use it and take advantage of available funding to play a more central role in the management and provision of community sport facilities.
“If all clubs and organisations make use of the asset transfer process, then no one will face having to meet the full costs for using and maintaining local facilities, and we can ensure that community sport continues to thrive in Bridgend County Borough.”
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