Joint news release from Live Borders and Scottish Borders Council: Thursday 27 June 2024

Changes to sport, leisure and cultural services ahead

Scottish Borders Council has agreed to progress discussions with the board of Live Borders to change the governance arrangements of the sport, leisure and culture trust and to return some services to the Council’s control.

At a meeting today Elected Members discussed options for the continued delivery of the services Live Borders delivers on the Council’s behalf, including a continuation of the current governance model and alternative trust models. The return of all services to the Council was also considered.

It was agreed to progress a move to a single member trust model, where the Council will be the single shareholder/member, but a board will still operate with an independent majority. This model will improve Council oversight and input into Live Borders and facilitate greater alignment to key priorities and service delivery. Live Borders will retain its independence and charitable status.

In conjunction with the change of model, the Council has agreed, in principle, to return the Active Schools and Sports Development services to the Council. A report will be brought back to Council in August detailing the full implications of this and outlining how it can be implemented.

In September, Councillors will then consider whether cultural and community services currently under Live Borders, such as libraries, museums, visitor attractions, town halls and community centres, will remain with the trust, be delivered by the Council or a combination of both.

Live Borders was formed as an arms-length external organisation of the Council in 2016, creating an integrated trust with the former Borders Sport and Leisure Trust to deliver services on behalf of the Council.

As with other such trusts across the country, Live Borders has experienced unprecedented challenges over the past five years, including the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent slow recovery, massively increased utility costs and changes in customer usage trends.

In addition to Live Borders exhausting their own financial reserves through the investment of millions of pounds into facilities and maintaining services, the Council has also supported Live Borders financially over a number of years, with additional funding over and above the annual budgeted management fee.

A joint transformational change programme has been progressing aimed at delivering high quality services through a financially sustainable and high performing partnership between Live Borders and the Council. This followed an independent joint review of sport, leisure and cultural services and facilities which took place during 2023 and received significant input from Borderers.

Projects within the programme include the development of detailed options appraisals and associated consultation on the future of the Council-owned buildings operated and managed by Live Borders which meet various criteria, including high repair/maintenance costs, decreasing user numbers, increased running costs and where there is the potential to relocate or co-locate services.

David Robertson, Chief Executive of Scottish Borders Council, said: “It was clear prior to the joint review that changes were required to help Live Borders get on a sustainable footing and protect the continued delivery of key services to our residents and visitors. The combination of the decisions taken today will support those aims and give us the opportunity to review which organisation is best placed to deliver various services.

“We are committed to working closely with the Live Borders board and our colleagues to ensure a seamless transition to the new operating model. Our focus over the next few weeks will be on the detailed preparations needed to facilitate the reintroduction of Active Schools and Sports Development to the Council’s remit.

“We are dedicated to advancing these initiatives without any disruption to our customers and I am confident that there will be no adverse impact on our customers throughout this transition period.

“In parallel, we will continue to work with Live Borders on the joint transformational change programme to ensure that together we are able to deliver the changes that are essential to us being able to meet the needs of our communities in an affordable and sustainable way across all sport, leisure and culture services.

“I appreciate that this has been, and will be for a few months yet, an uncertain time for Live Borders colleagues. Their ongoing commitment to customers and service delivery, and the support provided to the transformational change programme and indeed the options appraisal is to be commended.”

Alison Moore, chair of Live Borders, added: “I and my fellow Trustees accept today’s decision by elected members to seek to change the governance of Live Borders to that of a single member trust model, and we will work with Council colleagues to ensure that this transition is orderly and takes place as quickly as possible.

“The uncertainty that has hung over the future of Live Borders has been difficult for the staff, who have continued to deliver excellent local services for Borderers through these challenging times. I pay tribute to them and offer them my continued unwavering support as we work through this period of change.

“It is important that any further changes are decided upon and progressed in a timely manner as we need a period of stability for Live Borders. The Trust remains firmly committed to delivering on our vision of supporting a healthier, happier and stronger Scottish Borders. The joint transformational change programme is key to ensuring that we can continue to do that into the future in a financially sustainable way.”

The decisions taken today only relate to those services delivered by Live Borders and does not impact on other local providers, such as Jedburgh Leisure Facilities Trust or Berwickshire Recreation Education Sports Trust.

Notes to Editors:

In partnership, Scottish Borders Council and Live Borders are responsible for delivering a broad range of valued culture, sport and leisure and community services in towns and communities across the Scottish Borders.

The current trust arrangements were originally established in 2003 with the formation of Borders Sports and Leisure Trust. The services delivered have been expanded over the years, including the addition of Active Schools and Sports Development in 2011, cultural and community services in 2016, community sports provision at a number of schools, and the addition of the Great Tapestry of Scotland Visitor Centre in 2020.

For more information, contact the team on 01896 661166 or email