Joint news release from Scottish Borders Council and Live Borders

Joint news release from Scottish Borders Council and Live Borders:

Progress on development of options appraisal for delivery of sport, leisure and cultural services to be reported to Council.

Councillors will receive an update next week on progress with the development of an options appraisal regarding the continued delivery of the sport, leisure and cultural services currently provided by Live Borders on the Council’s behalf.

This follows a special meeting of Council on 9 May where Elected Members discussed the challenges being experienced by Live Borders and agreed that four options should be considered. That meeting took place in private as it related to live contractual discussions between the two organisations.

The options being considered are:

  • continuation of the current trust model
  • alternative trust models
  • the return of some services to the Council’s control
  • the return of all services to the Council’s control

A final report and full options appraisal will be presented to the meeting of Council on 27 June to enable Councillors to take a decision on which option to proceed with.

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. Live Borders has invested millions of pounds from its financial reserves into sustaining services, facilities and equipment as part of its commitment to customers.

The Council has supported Live Borders financially throughout, including continuing to pay the full management fee when services were closed through the pandemic and staff were furloughed. Subsequently the Council has provided an additional £2.5m of funding over and above the management fee and also removed planned savings from budget plans. Various capital investments to improve facilities or address immediate issues has also been provided by the Council.

A joint transformational change programme is also progressing, aimed at delivering high quality sport, leisure and cultural services through a financially sustainable and high performing partnership. This follows 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.

Councillor Euan Jardine, Leader of Scottish Borders Council, said: “Due to the ongoing challenges being experienced by Live Borders and the financial support required from the Council over a sustained period, it is appropriate that we consider how we can best continue to deliver these valued services to our communities and visitors.

“I welcome the collaborative way in which this is being progressed, and the support that the Live Borders board has given to this process. No decisions have been taken yet and will not be taken until the meeting of Council in June, when we will have all the information before us to consider the pros and cons of each of the four options.

“We understand that this is a difficult and unsettling time for staff who work for Live Borders, as well as users of the services. We have requested that the work is done at pace so a decision can be made next month and that the transformation work continues to progress as planned.”

Alison Moore, chair of Live Borders, said: “The four options that will be considered by elected members for the future delivery of leisure services in the Borders mark an evolution of a process that has been underway for 12 months, beginning with the independent joint review in the first half of 2023 and continuing with the ongoing transformational change programme.

“At every stage the Board and senior staff of Live Borders have worked closely and constructively with our Council colleagues, and we will continue to do so over the next few weeks and months.

“Ultimately, both Live Borders and the Council have the same aim: the delivery of high quality services which meet the needs of residents and visitors and which are affordable at a time of highly constrained public finances. How this is best achieved is what is currently being considered.

“As a sport, culture and leisure trust, Live Borders has been in existence in its current form since 2016 but the landscape has changed considerably since that time. The Board of Live Borders believes that the trust model remains the best way to deliver these services, but we recognise that, given the changing landscape, it is both logical and timely for the operating model to be considered in the round.

“While this is a period of uncertainty, particularly for the hard working and dedicated staff of Live Borders, they should be assured that both Live Borders and SBC are working closely and productively together to ensure a successful future for them and for the services in which they work.”

“We also continue to progress the joint transformational change programme with the Council which is focused on getting the delivery of sport, leisure and cultural services, and the associated facilities, on to a sustainable footing for the future.”