Ships & Castles Falmouth: Petition calling for full council vote on leisure centres set to fail

  Posted: 29.11.21 at 16:34 by Richard Whitehouse - Local Democracy Reporter

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A petition calling for Cornwall Council to let all councillors decide the fate of threatened leisure centres in Cornwall looks set to fail due to a legal loophole.

While the petition – signed by more than 5,000 – will be debated at a meeting of the full council tomorrow (Tues) legal officers have said that the decision on the future of leisure centres can only be made by the 10 councillors on the Cabinet.

Cornwall Council is considering whether to close leisure centres in Falmouth, Launceston, Saltash and Wadebridge as well as the hydrotherapy pool in St Austell.

It comes after operator GLL said it could no longer operate the facilities without financial subsidy from the council. The council has said that leisure services are not a statutory requirement and that it has no money available.

The council has said it is open to working with community groups or other operators who would like to take over the centres which are at risk of closure.

It has also launched a new leisure strategy which states that the council wants all residents to be within a 30-minute drive of a leisure centre and pool.

The community support event at Ships & Castles yesterday.

Campaigners trying to save the centres say they are vital for the health and wellbeing of residents as well as providing facilities for children to learn how to swim.

They say that the alternative leisure centres do not have the capacity to take on the needs of those whose centres could close.

And they have argued that by encouraging people to travel further for leisure facilities the council is contradicting its own targets of cutting carbon emissions.

The petition, which was started by Independent councillor Robin Moorcroft, argued that the decision on the leisure centres should be made by all 87 elected councillors.

But a response that will go before councillors says that legally the decision has to be made by the Cabinet.

This is due to it being an executive function of the council which can only be made by the 10-strong Cabinet.

Additionally, there is nothing in local government legislation that would allow council leader Linda Taylor to delegate the decision to the full council.

The recommendation for tomorrow’s meeting is that the petition should be “noted” and that the council thanks residents. However, it then recommends that no further action should be taken due to the legal restrictions on how the decision should be made.

However, while the final decision will not be made by the full council, it is hoped that the petition will allow for a debate in the council chamber.

Ahead of the meeting a number of people are expected to demonstrate over the possible closures and there are also a number of public questions on the issue of leisure centres.

A report on the future of leisure centres and the leisure strategy is also expected to be discussed by the customer and support services overview and scrutiny committee when it meets next Tuesday (December 7th).

This could result in a recommendation being made to the Cabinet which is expected to make its final decision on the issue when it meets on December 15th.

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