Some councils still too slow to realise opportunities to reduce expenditure on leisure services and need to consider alternative models of delivery to reduce cost.
Councils across Wales have reduced how much they spend on leisure services by almost £18 million in the last five years. However, opportunities to make further savings exist and need to be pursued, our report on leisure services finds today.
In the second of a series of studies, looking at how councils are managing to deliver key services with less money, this report, Delivering with Less – Leisure Services, includes information sought from the public survey we ran this year called At your leisure.
The report concludes that leisure (a discretionary service which is not protected from cuts) has huge benefits in people’s lives, and that use of council leisure services has increased by 3.4 per cent from 2009-10 to 2014-15. Whilst 18 councils have reduced how much they spend on leisure services, the biggest reductions have been achieved where councils change their model for delivering their major leisure facilities by transferring these facilities to trusts. On average, councils transferring facilities to trusts have made annual savings of £2.4 million.
Auditor General Huw Vaughan Thomas said Council’s across Wales are facing a tough time and are expected to deal with more difficult budget cuts. Our report highlights that councils have done well to deliver almost £0.5 billion of cuts across their services in recent years. My report also shows that there are options to make further savings by changing how major leisure facilities are managed and provided in the future.
However, the review found that many councils are too slow in reviewing alternative methods of delivery and missing out on opportunities to reduce expenditure in the current period of austerity.
The report makes four main recommendations for councils in improving how they provide leisure services which could realise savings by setting a clear strategic vision for these services, undertaking an options appraisal to consider alternative methods of delivery and using data to identify how best to deliver services and make decisions.