A plan for the future?

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Culture and leisure services in East Renfrewshire could be transferred from council hands to an independent trust in a bid to cut costs.

East Renfrewshire Council met last night (Wednesday) to debate the handing over of leisure services — including sports centres, libraries, community halls and Eastwood Park Theatre — to an arms length organisation.

According to the report, the move would save ERC between £400,00 and £470,000 a year.

Councillors voted to move to the next stage of the proposal, including a detailed business plan and consultation.

However, UNISON trade union members and community activists gathered at council HQ last night to protest the plan.

East Ren branch secretary Steven Larkin told The Extra: “We are deeply concerned that ERC seem determined to outsource our leisure facilities.

“In Scotland, a number of local authorities have set up trusts with mixed results. Many have closed halls, 
libraries and facilities, reduced opening hours, cut jobs and increased casual contracts.

“We know local people value their cultural and leisure activities and we doubt the community supports this move.”

Sean Clerkin, of the Renfrewshire Anti Cuts Committee, vowed to fight the plan, which he believes is “the first step towards privatisation” and added that the group will campaign to residents throughout the consultation period.

An ERC spokeswoman responded that the proposed move would allow access to additional, external funding for the current council facilities.

She added: “Our proposal to transfer leisure and cultural services to a charitable trust has been made with two clear objectives — to provide improved services while protecting jobs for staff.

“This will be particularly important at a time when budgets are under pressure.

“The council will be retaining ownership of its properties therefore the trust will be unable to close libraries, leisure centres or halls — the council will remain in control of the long-term future of each.”

What do you think? Share your thoughts by emailing Gillian (address above).