SHETLAND could be forced to look at closing two rural leisure centres if funds are not approved at a meeting of the islands’ charitable trust on Thursday.
Shetland Recreational Trust has been left with a £400,000 hole in its budget this year after the local council reneged on an agreement to pay for schools to use its facilities.
The figure is the equivalent of the annual running costs of two of its seven rural leisure centres and swimming pools.
The trust has already trimmed its budget by £300,000 by making 10 per cent of its staff redundant, losing 22 people including leisure assistants in Lerwick, Sandwick, Scalloway and Brae, and staff in its café and bar.
Cutbacks in opening hours also helped bring the trust’s annual bill down to £2.5 million, which is core funded by Shetland Charitable Trust.
The charitable trust has suggested it might be able to step in and on Thursday morning trustees are being invited to approve a one off grant of £400,000.
The money has appeared after another of the islands’ trusts, the economic development agency Shetland Development Trust, decided to donate the surplus on its investments to the charitable trust.
The figure this year is £347,160, which accrues a 40 per cent tax credit making it worth £578,600. The trust believes that in future years the surplus could be worth as much as £800,000.
In the past the development trust has awarded its surplus to the NAFC Marine Centre in Scalloway and the social enterprise COPE.
Shetland’s elected councillors control the development trust and the charitable trust.
Recreational trust general manager James Johnston said they were about to embark on a consultation exercise to save more money.
“One of our objectives is to go out to schools and sports organisations to ensure that we are meeting the needs of the local community,” he said.
“The exercise will achieve some savings but it won’t be to the magnitude of £400,000. The reality is that the running costs of a rural leisure centre are £200,000 a year and our monthly wage bill is about £250,000.”
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