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Rutland County Council to cut funding to climate change and preventing flooding if Catmose Sports Centre in Oakham is saved

Funding to prevent flooding will be cut if a leisure centre is saved from closure.

Rutland County Council debated again the future of Catmose Sports Centre at a cabinet meeting yesterday (April 16).

Last month councillors, behind closed doors, considered whether to surrender its lease of the facilities with Catmose College and end public access, or award a new contract but after hours of debate failed to make a decision. Instead, they asked cabinet members to consider options for funding leisure in Rutland.

Catmose Sports Centre
Catmose Sports Centre

There are no funds allocated in the council’s budget for the leisure centre, which means if it is kept open other services may be cut or money would have to be taken from reserves.

Coun Andrew Johnson (Lib Dem), deputy leader of the council, said: “It is far too easy to think we can take money out of reserves for every day expenditure.

“If we start doing this the council runs the risk of becoming financially unsustainable.”

Coun Andrew Johnson
Coun Andrew Johnson

He added: “We are already living beyond our means. The council is spending more than the funding we receive.”

The cabinet was asked to consider removing planned investments into areas where there are no recent and significant new duties, no trend of demand or cost increase and no investment needed to deliver savings.

The two areas that most closely fit the criteria are investment in a climate change officer and pro-active flood management, which have already been allocated funding. This would be redirected toward leisure services.

Other options considered included adult social care, housing and homelessness, children’s services, libraries and Active Rutland, transport, investment and visitor economy, environment and waste services, highways, planning and member’s allowances. None of these were found to be viable by officers or cabinet members.

Campaigners are fighting to save Catmose Sports Centre in Oakham from closure
Campaigners are fighting to save Catmose Sports Centre in Oakham from closure

Coun Diane Ellison (Lib Dem), portfolio holder for adults and health, fought for no cuts to adult social care services, which she believes sets Rutland apart from other places to live.

Although recognising the importance of exercise, she questioned whether a gym is needed for people to get fit.

“The most beneficial exercise is brisk walking which is free. Then swimming, which is another issue, jogging, cycling and dancing,” she said.

Councillor Christine Wise
Councillor Christine Wise

“Gyms have a specific role but they can exclude people due to issues with body image, ethnic sensitivities and cost.

“If we have no money why would we fund a gym?”

The covid pandemic and the ongoing energy crisis had forced the council to provide Catmose Sports Centre with significant financial support.

It was agreed last March that services would continue to be funded up to March 31, 2025, provided a new model could be found, a key requirement of which was that any future contract was that the centre runs at no cost to either Rutland County Council or Catmose College, which owns the buildings.

Bids have been put in by operators, but, according to a spokesperson for the council, these cannot be made public until the tender process has formally ended.

Coun Christine Wise (Lib Dem), portfolio holder for transport, environment and communities, while holding back tears, expressed her concerns with cutting funding to flooding and climate change.

Coun Wise said: “We will drop to doing the bare minimum as the lead local flood authority and will be doing less than we have been.”

She added: “People will feel very let down after promises were made.

“If the council feels the leisure centre must be funded it is very regrettable but I can see no other choice.”

A special Rutland County Council meeting was held on January 18, when it was decided further investigations were needed following Storm Henk and Storm Babet and assurances were given that more would be done to prevent flooding. It was noted that people affected by recent flooding could be without answers for years.

Leader of Rutland County Council Gale Waller, put forward the motion that ‘cabinet considers the only viable option is to reduce funding to flood management and climate change to allocate to our leisure services for the management of Catmose Leisure Centre’, which, ‘with heavy hearts’, received unanimous approval.

Rutland County Council would not manage these leisure services itself.

The decision will go to full council at a meeting tonight (Thursday, April 18).

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