Cash cuts push sport groups into merger

TWO of the most important sports trusts in Richmondshire are planning to merge to help preserve leisure facilities across the district amid a funding crisis.

The Colburn Community Partnership could be consumed by the Richmondshire Leisure Trust under the plans for a radical shake-up of how sports centres, gyms and pools are run.

Richmondshire District Council currently provides 369,000 in annual funding to the leisure trust, although the amount is due to be dramatically reduced to help cope with the Government's financial cuts.

The annual funding will be cut by 100,000 in the next two financial years, and the move to merge the trust with the community partnership is aimed at easing the financial pressures.

The Colburn Community Partnership's manager, Iain Garth, said: "After looking at the current financial climate, we do believe that the merger will help preserve sporting facilities in Richmondshire. Rather than having two organisations close down with the associated costs, it is being suggested that the community partnership becomes part of the leisure trust."

The partnership, which is a registered charity, owns and manages Colburn Community Health and Recreation Centre.

Opened in 2002, the centre houses a sports hall, fitness suite, activity room, a floodlit games area and two football pitches.

The leisure trust was formed in April 2005, and manages Richmond Swimming Pool on behalf of Richmondshire District Council on a long-term lease. It also manages a sports centre, gym and a pitch at Richmond School as well as the district's sports development service.

The community partnership receives an annual 15,000 grant from Colburn Town Council, and talks are continuing to ensure the money will still be available under the merger plans. If approved, the merger will take place during March.