SCOTTISH Borders councillors have grasped a new direction for sport and leisure in the region by unanimously backing a proposal to transfer key services to the Borders Sport and Leisure Trust.
The council last week approved plans to transfer the Active Schools Programme and the Sports Development strands of the Sport, Health and Physical Education (SHAPE) services to the charity trust this summer after conducting a review of the best route to maximising the potential of these services in the future.
However, the council’s Adventure Sport and Outdoor Education Service will remain within SBC’s Education and Lifelong Learning department due to its strong links with education. This will help meet the Council’s statutory requirements in respect of excursions and will also ensure there is continued support for ‘a Curriculum for Excellence’
The integration of SHAPE services with BSLT will help create sustainability for sport in the longer term as well as improving its provision in the region. SBC and BSLT can also maximise the use of resources and identify efficiencies through joint working.
Under the integration, SBC will also lease the Queen’s Centre in Galashiels to BSLT, which already manages 10 leisure facilities across the Borders, including Eyemouth Leisure Centre.
With the support of Sportscotland and various governing bodies for the transfer, SBC has given a capital commitment that £250,000 per year for the next five years will be invested in the Trust to help it to maintain the facilities and improve their ability to seek new external funding. Sportscotland funding for the Active Schools Programme is also safe-guarded at least until 2015.
Commenting on the move, SBC’s Director of Education and Lifelong Learning Glenn Rodger said: “This makes good sense as we look to progress sport in the Borders. SBC and BSLT are key partners and we are moving into a new exciting era. We are in no doubt that, with the current stringent economic climate, the next five to ten years will be a major challenge.
“ We have to think differently if we are to retain and improve our services. An integrated sports trust is a sound model for the future - we believe that it will work and deliver improved services to the people of the Borders.
Chairman of BSLT Tony Taylor added: “This is a move that has occurred across Scotland and has proven to be successful and we are very pleased that Borders councillors have shown foresight in the potential this transfer has for improving sport and leisure in the Borders.
“The Trust took on the challenge of managing ten facilities across the Borders in 2003 with the simple aim of keeping them open at a time of significant financial difficulty for local authorities. At that time there was a real threat of facilities closing, but, working closely with SBC, the Trust has not only kept them open but managed to leverage nearly £1 million of external funding to invest in the facilities.
“We are again in challenging financial times across the country which will not change in the near future, but we remain an ambitious non-profit-making organisation that wants the best for the Borders. We have studied the impact of having Sports Development and Active Schools under the one roof with facilities management in other areas and we are confident, working closely with the valued and committed staff transferring across and our own dedicated staff, local communities, SBC, Sportscotland and other governing bodies, that we can make a success of the new partnerships and keep sport, leisure and healthy lifestyles at the forefront of Borders life.”