CHANGES to the way Worthing leisure services are run in the coming months will safeguard facilities for years to come, its chief executive has assured.
Worthing Leisure users may notice new signs going up by May, as Splashpoint, Worthing Leisure Centre, Davison Leisure Centre and Field Place will soon be run by a charitable trust, instead of Worthing Borough Council.
The new not-for-profit South Downs Leisure trust will be run by the existing team, headed up by current manager Duncan Anderson.
He said: “Customers won’t see any change. It will be the same staff, the same gyms and if anything, it will be an improvement.
“Areas like Littlehampton, Adur and Mid Sussex operate leisure trusts and we are moving into that field.
“We are looking to reinvest into the facilities and protect them going forward, as it is getting harder and harder for councils financially, so we can help that going forward.”
While the council will still own the buildings, the day-to-day operating costs will be run by the new trust, with any surplus funds being shared between the two parties.
The Fit4 brand will stay the same and Mr Anderson said there was not going to be price hikes for customers.
“I am very excited,” he said.
“I think it’s a real positive move on behalf of Worthing Borough Council to give Worthing Leisure this opportunity to create South Downs Leisure.”
Becoming a trust will open up access to tax and VAT benefits, not accessible while services were council run.
Having already invested in gym facilities at Worthing College, running more than 20 classes a week, Mr Anderson hopes new opportunities will be opened up.
He said: “Worthing Leisure has been a good performer for the council for a number of years now and rather than wait until we have exhausted growth and have our backs to the wall we decided to take matters into our own hands and make an informed decision at a time when we have a choice.
“As a trust we intend to work very closely with our biggest partner, which will be the borough council and continue to improve our facilities and service within. “We will also be able to apply for funding that in the past as a council run facility we were not eligible to apply for.”
The trust will be overseen by 11 voluntary trustees, who will make sure the new organisation sticks to its principles as a charitable organisation.
The board of six women and five men include several Fit4 members , are a wide range of ages and all but one live in Worthing, so are well-placed to hold the trust to account.
Among them is Luke Proudfoot, councillor for Castle ward.
He said: “I have always had a keen interest in sports, having played football at school, basketball at college and lacrosse at university.
“I want to be able to ensure that local residents are listened to and that their local leisure trust remains run by local people.”
Work is well underway to officially transfer services to the newly-founded trust, with everything on course to be completed by May 1.
For more information, visit www.worthingleisure.co.uk/south-downs-leisure-trust