New plans for the management of Renfrewshire’s libraries, museums and town halls will ‘promote greater investment, increase community participation in decision-making, and support economic regeneration’ according to a new report.
A meeting of Renfrewshire Council on Thursday December 18 will consider a proposal that the existing Renfrewshire Leisure trust should take over the running of cultural services and facilities.
Renfrewshire Leisure has more than doubled customer visits to sports facilities and increased jobs by over 50% since it took over the management of Renfrewshire’s sports centres and swimming pools in 2003.
Council chiefs believe that incorporating cultural services into the trust can deliver a similar boost for a sector that the council has put at the centre of its programme to regenerate the Renfrewshire economy.
Councillor James Harte, Convener of Renfrewshire Council’s Sports, Leisure and Culture Policy Board, said: “Renfrewshire has a unique cultural heritage and a vibrant arts scene. The council is putting that living tradition at the centre of our plans to bring jobs and investment.
“Our approach takes account of the Renfrewshire Tourism Framework, the Paisley Heritage Asset Strategy which could be worth £45m a year and 800 new jobs, and the plan for Paisley to bid to be UK City of Culture 2021.
“The council has set out an approach which builds on a successful existing model in Renfrewshire. Vital services would be retained in public ownership through a not-for-profit organisation with charitable status. We would also draw on the best practice of trusts which are already operating successfully in two thirds of Scottish local authority areas.
“It’s vital we get the right approach to maximise the potential of our museums, town halls and libraries. We have looked at different options, consulted widely, and believe that broadening the scope of a trust which has a proven track record offers the best way forward.
“There are strong economic reasons for creating an expanded trust. At a time when the council is facing a funding shortfall of between £20 and £30million over the next three years, it makes sense to take advantage of the £600,000 savings from VAT and business rates which trust status would deliver every year.
“The trust’s facilities and services would continue to receive public funding from Renfrewshire Council but would also have more flexibility to attract additional funding from other sources. The facilities, including museums, libraries and town halls would remain in public ownership.
“There would be increased opportunities for community and business representatives to be directly involved in decision-making on the future of cultural services through representation on the trust board”
Along with a change to the management of libraries, museums and town halls, a number of other services could transfer to the trust, including: sports development and Active Schools programmes, bowling greens and pavilions, and some community facilities. The aim is to provide a better, more streamlined service – for example, on pitch bookings.
Added Councillor Harte: “Our proposals are ambitious and reflect our vision for not just preserving cultural services in Renfrewshire but strengthening and developing them.”
If the plan is approved by councillors, there would be a phased transfer of services to the trust during 2015.