Fury at leisure chiefs' £250k uniform bill

EDINBURGH Leisure has been criticised after it emerged it is set to spend up to £250,000 on new uniforms for staff - just weeks after campaigners protested at the closure of a busy sports centre.

• Campaigners says facilities are more important than new uniforms

The cash-strapped trust which runs the city's sports facilities will spend up to a quarter of a million pounds on tracksuits and polo shirts for staff, along with new suits and formal shirts for managers.

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The move comes just four months after the body pulled out of running the Queensferry Recreation Centre, resulting in its closure. Last year Edinburgh Leisure also closed the Crags Sports Centre and introduced a 2 swimming charge for children aged 5-12.

The three-year clothing contract, advertised this week, comes just a fortnight after more than 100 residents of South Queensferry protested at the closure of the facility, which they said had helped to keep young people off the streets.

Campaigner Elizabeth Sneddon of the Queensferry Recreation Survivors' Association, said: "Surely instead of new uniforms Edinburgh Leisure could put this money towards keeping open rural community centres like South Queensferry.

"Our centre was a focal point for the community and when you take something like this away it leaves young people nowhere to go for activities.

"We understand that you need to replace uniforms but surely keeping a local community centre open must be the priority. "

Edinburgh Leisure, which is part-funded by the council, has struggled with funding cuts and finished the 2010-11 financial year 448,000 over budget.

Lothians MSP Sarah Boyack, who has previously set up petitions campaigning against the closure of Dalry Swim Centre and Crags Sports Centre, said: "This looks like a very strange choice to make when there are cuts being made to centres.

"It is a significant amount of money and people are going to wonder about the wisdom of making this a priority."

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Labour councillor Paul Godzik, a former board member of Edinburgh Leisure, added: "At a time when services are being cut it is obviously an issue of some concern.

"Obviously Edinburgh Leisure has a job to do in providing the best services they can, however, they are under a great deal of budget pressure and I recognise that some campaigners will view this very dimly."

A spokeswoman for Edinburgh Leisure said it was vital that employees be provided with the right uniforms to ensure they are easily identifiable and are suitably protected in the workplace. She said: "There is often significant wear and tear to their uniforms as our employees work in a sporting environment and it is important that our staff take pride in their appearance and the service they provide to our customers."

She added: "We are also preparing for a large increase in demand for staff uniforms due to the significant employment opportunities that will be presented by the re-opening of the Royal Commonwealth Pool next spring."