‘Strange decisions’ of leisure organisation

The swimming pool at Willowburn Sports and Leisure Centre, in Alnwick.
The swimming pool at Willowburn Sports and Leisure Centre, in Alnwick.

Active Northumberland was planning to have unmanned gyms and swimming pools without lifeguards, it has been revealed.

The shocking claim was made at last Thursday’s meeting of Alnwick Town Council, which received an update from the relevant county council cabinet member, Coun Cath Homer.

As reported by the Gazette last month, the arm’s-length organisation was the subject of a scathing report after an independent review.

Coun Homer said: “It’s been a long and difficult piece of work.

“I’m always keen to say how great the staff have been while this review has been going on.”

She added: “What we ended up with was quite a dysfunctional organisation.

“There has been a blackhole in the finances and the council has had to commit an extra £2.6million to keep Active Northumberland going and it’s likely that might rise in the coming months. The new board has been absolutely 100 per cent behind putting those governance issues right.”

Coun George Mavin asked about previous board members still in post, of which there are two. Coun Homer said that part of the problem was that information didn’t make it to the board.

Coun Sue Allcroft asked about those involved being sacked or even arrested. Coun Homer replied: “I can’t comment other than to say that other organisations are looking into the dealings at Active Northumberland.”

Great Exhibition of the North

Coun Cath Homer also spoke to Alnwick town councillors about the Great Exhibition of the North, which is taking place in Newcastle-Gateshead across the summer.

To try to take advantage of the three million extra visitors to the North East which are expected, the county council is going to launch a Great Northumberland programme at Easter. Coun Homer said: “There’s no point being in competition, it needs to complement what happens in Newcastle-Gateshead.”

The plan is to have a launch in Hexham and a close in Berwick with something happening every weekend in the county’s main towns, including in Alnwick on August 11 and 12.