Alterations to gymnast training could save £200,000 a year

CHANGES could be made to the way elite-level gymnasts in Leeds are trained as part of a move designed to save council bosses in the city almost £200,000 a year.

Public talks have got underway this week about possible changes to the way top-level gymnastics are run in the city.

Meetings have been held between Leeds City Council, which currently manages performance gymnastics training in the city, and the gymnasts, their parents and the coaches to outline possible changes to how the training scheme could be run.

The proposal put forward would see the creation of a new independent club to take over the training scheme from April 2011.

Such a change to move away from the council directly managing the scheme would also save the authority 197,000 per year after an initial four-year period where the council would supply a reducing level of support while the new club establishes itself.

There are currently 135 performance gymnasts aged from five to 20 on the City of Leeds scheme which is based at Leeds Metropolitan University's Regional Gymnastics Centre in Headingley.

The outline proposals have now been put to consultation following discussions between Leeds City Council, Leeds Metropolitan University and the national governing body British Gymnastics, which has offered broad support to the possible creation of the new club.

One option would be for the club to be based in possible new premises, which would allow it to benefit from increased training hours and also be able to host recreational gymnastics sessions.

The outline proposals also reflect the findings of a study carried out in 2009 by British Gymnastics and Leeds City Council which looked at ways of providing long-term improvement and stability for elite-level gymnastics in the city.

The outline plan would see the new club operating as a not-for-profit organisation with a strong community involvement and the council maintaining a role in its ongoing management.

An initial consultation period has now begun for everyone involved to give their views on the outline proposals, with discussions to be held with all parties throughout the process.

Once an agreed proposal has been reached it will be discussed and decided upon by the council's executive board.

Mark Allman, the council's head of sport and active recreation said: "The initial meetings we held with the gymnasts, parents and coaches were very positive with everyone keen to secure a strong and positive future for elite gymnastics in Leeds.

"The support of British Gymnastics is also much appreciated and hugely important, so now it is vital that everyone involved lets us know their thoughts and ideas so we can move on to the next stage."

Leeds City Council's Gymnastics Training Scheme currently offers elite-level training in three sections: Men's artistic, women's artistic and acrobatics/tumbling.

The scheme currently employs one full-time coach and 18 casual coaches.

Leeds City Council currently offers recreational gymnastics at 11 leisure centres around the city, and these would work closely with the new club to identify talented gymnasts to put forward for the elite-level training.

The news of possible changes to elite gymnastics in the city comes at a time when the authority is considering cuts to services as a result of the Government's spending review.

Council bosses in the city have already said they fear they will have to make multi-million pound cuts over the next five years as a result of the spending review and it has written to thousands of staff seeking volunteers for redundancy or early retirement.

The authority has already been told it will have 19m less to spend than anticipated, this year alone, and by 2015, it is anticipating it will have to reduce its budget by an estimated 150m.