£1m bail-out for Northumberland’s provider of leisure services

The swimming pool at Willowburn Sports and Leisure Centre, in Alnwick, which is managed by Active Northumberland.
The swimming pool at Willowburn Sports and Leisure Centre, in Alnwick, which is managed by Active Northumberland.

Active Northumberland, a charity which provides leisure, libraries and cultural services, has asked for a £1million bail-out.

A new board has identified a number of issues, including historic governance of the organisation and a significant financial deficit which has been incurred within this financial year, resulting in a potential overspend of £1million.

As a result, David Hall, chairman of Active Northumberland, has written to Northumberland County Council to ask for a non-refundable grant of up to £1million to support the charity this financial year.

The council has indicated that it will provide additional funding to safeguard the future of the trust, provided it is able to produce a credible business plan which will deliver the financial targets for the coming years. This includes savings of £2million next financial year and a further £1.5million the following year.

Mr Hall said: “Since joining the board, it has become very clear there are a number of issues which we have inherited within Active Northumberland and which need to be resolved.

“The senior management team are working hard to resolve these issues, including working on the business strategy and its budget. The new Active Northumberland Board will be reviewing these shortly, but in the meantime we have asked the council for support of up to £1million to assist us this year.

“There is no doubt the organisation will undergo a number of changes as a result of its new business strategy and budget issues, however, I firmly believe that these issues can be addressed to ensure the future success of the charity.”

Leader of Northumberland County Council, Grant Davey, said: “We are aware of the situation with regards to Active Northumberland and have agreed to provide financial support to safeguard the future of the charity.

“We will look at all the options available and want to ensure that there is a credible recovery strategy and programme in place to put the organisation firmly back on its own two feet.

“However, I would urge residents to use their services, especially the leisure centres and facilities; they are a vital part of their local communities, but due to the significant budget cuts imposed on us by central government, such services are under threat. They must be financially viable. The more residents who use them the more likely they are to be protected in the future.”