Sunderland leisure services fall victim to council cuts

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CUTS to jobs and services are to be made at three city leisure centres, it was revealed today.

Sunderland Council said Crowtree, the Community North Sports Complex at Downhill, and Silksworth Ski Complex would all have to make “significant savings” due to budget reductions.

Head of community services Julie Gray said: “While we are doing everything we can to limit the effect of the efficiencies on both services and employees, there will inevitably be implications for staff at the three centres. Talks have already begun with trade unions.

“In line with the council’s policy of avoiding mass redundancies, any employees whose jobs are affected by the changes will be given the opportunity to be matched with vacancies for other posts through the council’s internal jobs market.

“The city council will talk to clubs and organisations using the centres and to partners over the coming weeks, to explore possible alternative methods of operation which impact on customers as little as possible.”

From October 1, Crowtree will close to casual users and only accept club and sports hall block bookings.

Councillor Paul Dixon - whose Millfield ward covers the centre – said he believed the time had come to put Crowtree out of its misery.

“It is basically not going to be open to the public.

“When they closed the pool a few years back and moved the gym across to the aquatic centre, the numbers dried up.

“It is surprising it has stayed open as long as it has. I think the problem is there is nobody at the council with the political will just to say ‘enough is enough, let’s close it’.”

Crowtree users had mixed feelings about the news.

Paul Kirsop, 33, from Roker, plays badminton there to help his recovery from a double lung transplant.

He said: “If I can’t come here I’ll probably end up going to the Raich Carter or the Seaburn Centre.

“If it is not making money they can’t afford to keep running it.”

Guinean Mamadi Camara, 28, of Hendon, said: “I come to play football and you have to be in a group for that, but people should be able to come and play on their own.

“Where I’m from, you can play football anywhere, but here you can’t, because of health and safety.”

Elizabeth Musgrave, 64, from Easington Colliery, popped in with her seven-year-old grandson to see what was available.

“I don’t think they should have shut the swimming pool in the first place,” she said.

Of the other centres, Ms Gray said: “There will be minor changes to opening hours at Silksworth which we anticipate will have minimal disruption to customers, and we will work closely with users to accommodate their needs.

“Community North Sports Complex will change its operation from the start of the 2011/12 football season, and we will meet with sports clubs which use the complex with a view to discussing the options associated with future management of the facility.”