Redundancies and price rises ruled-out for Sunderland's much-loved Derwent Hill outdoor education centre in the Lake District

City leaders have rejected the suggestion price rises or redundancies could be on the cards at a popular outdoor education and training centre.

Friday, 12th February 2021, 1:55 pm
Derwent Hill is the Lake District outdoor education centre owned by Sunderland City Council.

Derwent Hill, in the Lake District, which has been visited by generations of Sunderland families, is facing an uncertain future due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

But bosses have promised to shield staff and Wearside’s youngsters from efforts to cut costs and boost income at the venue.

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“We were asked to look at everything, and everything was on the table around how we could make savings,” said Victoria French, Sunderland City Council’s assistant director of culture and events.

“One thing that was looked at that [we were] asked not to proceed with looking at the subsidy level that we have for Sunderland school children – that was quickly dismissed.

“What we’ve looked at instead is how we can achieve that target with growth opportunities, rather than savings.”

French was speaking at a meeting of the city council’s Scrutiny Co-ordinating Committee on February 11, which was held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube.

Fears for the future of Derwent Hill were raised the last time the panel met on January 14, after a report on council spending plans which suggested a ‘review of staffing arrangements’ at the venue could save £37,000.

French however insisted no redundancies were planned, with savings expected from cutting vacant posts.

Efforts to improve offers for family holidays and business away days, as well as school trips, are being considered, including the purchase of several new camping pods.

Cllr Pat Smith, one of the first to demand answers on Derwent Hill’s future, said she was relieved the ‘dirty word’ of redundancies was not being considered.

She added: “Derwent Hill is a fantastic place, it’s had a lot of work and effort over the years and it’s been a marvellous thing for the young people and the families of Sunderland.

“All [city] councillors, in any of the political parties, would be very upset to see anything happen to it – it’s too precious

“We need to find the money for those camping pods, we need to outlay money to make money.”

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