Ships and Castles Falmouth: Concerns that leisure centre survey is biased

  Posted: 12.10.21 at 15:07 by Richard Whitehouse - Local Democracy Reporter

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Concerns have been raised that a Cornwall Council questionnaire on the future of five leisure facilities which face closure is “biased”.

The council is currently undertaking public consultation after leisure centre operator GLL announced that it could no longer operate five of the facilities it is responsible for in Cornwall.

Leisure centres in Wadebridge, Falmouth, Launceston and Saltash are all under threat of closure along with the hydrotherapy pool in St Austell.

The council insists that no final decision has been made about the leisure centres and says it is considering all options. However, it has said that unless alternative arrangements can be found then the centres in Saltash, Wadebridge and Falmouth will close in March 2022 and Launceston in January 2023.

However, it has also stressed that there is no budget available for the provision of leisure services which it says is not a statutory requirement for the authority.

As part of the consultation, an online survey has been published giving people the chance to have their say about the council’s leisure strategy and the threat of closure to the five facilities.

But there have been concerns raised on social media that the survey is “loaded” and “biased” towards the council’s aims with “leading questions”.

There have also been concerns that some of the questions and statements in the survey are unclear and use council jargon which is difficult to understand.

In one section of the survey the council asks people to say to what extent they agree with “a set of principles for the leisure offer”.

One of those principles is stated as: “To harness the capacity and capability in local communities to innovate and develop financially sustainable delivery models.”

The survey also states: “To safeguard the operation of the majority of leisure centres in Cornwall, we propose to remove the contractual requirements on GLL to operate the four leisure centres in Wadebridge, Launceston, Saltash and Falmouth, and the operation of the hydrotherapy pool at St Austell leisure centre.”

Some have argued that this statement shows that there is no intention to try and keep the leisure centres open and that the decision has already been made.

However, the next paragraph does state that the council has experience of working with communities to manage services and adds they are willing to work with any groups “that believe they could offer a solution capable of making some of these facilities financially viable and to explore other sustainable alternatives”.

A report on the issue is due to go to the council’s Cabinet to consider options for the centres by the end of the year.

The council has said that all responses and suggestions will be considered in drawing up the recommendations for the Cabinet.

The council is also holding online meetings about Saltash Leisure Centre tomorrow and about St Austell Hydrotherapy Pool on Thursday.

The survey, which closes on October 31st, can be found here.

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