Inquiry as Shropshire leisure trust not meeting standards to apply for large grants

An independent review will be carried out into the running of a leisure trust in charge of five Shropshire sports centres.

Market Drayton Swimming & Fitness Centre
Market Drayton Swimming & Fitness Centre

Shropshire Council says it accepts the current governance arrangements at Shropshire Community Leisure Trust (SCLT) are not up to the highest level of standards required by Sport England in order to attract significant grant funding.

The trust is contracted by the council until 2022 to operate the Quarry centre and Sundorne Sports Village in Shrewsbury as well as Oswestry, Whitchurch and Market Drayton leisure centres.

Concerns over the governance of SCLT were raised by David Kilby, secretary of Shropshire Playing Fields Association, in a public question submitted to Shropshire Council’s cabinet at a meeting on Monday.

Mr Kilby said: “Can Shropshire Council confirm that at the time of signing the contract they were fully satisfied that SCLT was a properly democratically constituted trust and that in their opinion, they were satisfied that the governance of SCLT was entirely fit for the purpose of providing leisure services as agreed to deliver the aforementioned contract?”

Mr Kilby further asked whether the council was satisfied SCLT was currently meeting Sport England and UK Sport’s ‘tier three’ standards, which must be in place before large grants can be awarded for future sports provision.

Contract

‘Tier three’ investments are those which are spread over a period of years for a continuing activity rather than a one-off project, and total more than £1 million.

The Sport England guidance says that to achieve ‘tier three’ standards, organisations must meet a string of requirements in relation to their structure, personnel, communication, conduct and policies.

Councillor Lezley Picton, portfolio holder for leisure, said the council entered into the contract in 2012/13 following a formal tender process.

She said the SCLT was chosen as the preferred provider after the council carried out “an evaluation of their governance model” and undertook checks to ensure the trust was properly constituted, was registered with the Financial Services Authority and had charitable status.

Councillor Picton added: “The position as of February 4, 2021 is that the council have held discussions with Shropshire Community Leisure Trust over several months regarding governance and working towards ‘tier three’ level standards.

“It is agreed by both parties that those standards are not currently in place and an independent review of the existing governance should be undertaken by the trust. That process has been agreed by the trust board.”

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