North-east officers back bid to replace £370,000 failed trust with sport and culture unit

Director of education and children's services, Maria Walker

Councillors were today being asked to back a bid to create a new business unit to manage a local authority’s sports and culture services.

Aberdeenshire Council members were expected to approve the plan, which has been recommended for the go-ahead by officials, at the full council meeting today.

Sport and physical activity services, as well as libraries and pitches, would come under the remit of the new organisation.

The authority had previously hoped to create an arms-length body in the form of a trust to run sports centres, museums and libraries to save money.

However, councillors halted the proposal after finding out it would no longer be exempt from business rates.

Aberdeenshire Council shelled out more than £370,000 on the trust that didn’t come to fruition.

The new business unit, if approved, would be called Aberdeenshire Culture and Sport (ACS).

As part of the plan it is also proposed that the council sets up an independent organisation, potentially a charity, that would look to raise funds for ACS.

In a report to councillors Maria Walker, director of education and children’s services, said: “Staff will remain employees of the council and the business unit will continue to use the same ICT infrastructure.”

The report said the new business unit would be subject to a pilot period.

Ms Walker added: “The Culture and Sport Business Unit will be a pilot for the council in testing different ways of working, as part of the response to sustaining services in challenging financial times.

“This model is anticipated to deliver significant benefit to the council and the communities of Aberdeenshire, increasing income, participation and delivering better outcomes.”

However, in the report it also states that the proposals would impact staff managed within the unit with “changes to the operating environment and to staffing structures.”

If approved the operation of the business unit would be phased in from next month, and it is expected it would be fully in place by September.