Volunteers could be running Falkirk area’s culture and sports venues to save cash

Sports centres, parks, town halls and even a World Heritage site could leave the care of Falkirk Community Trust and be run by volunteers.

That’s just one of the controversial proposals being looked at as Falkirk Council launches a shake-up to reduce the funding it gives to culture and sport.

Tomorrow (Wednesday), councillors are being asked to consider several ways to save over £5.3 million from the money currently spent of sports and leisure facilities through Falkirk Community Trust.

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This includes upgrading schools’ facilities so they become ‘campuses’ that will take the place of sports centres and asking libraries to share space with other facilities.

The council intends to develop all of its secondary schools into ‘genuine community campuses’, starting with Braes High, Denny High and Bo’ness Academy.

It says libraries in Denny, Meadowbank and Larbert will be retained, but Bonnybridge and Slamannan are earmarked to be co-located with other services in future.

In the report, presented by chief executive Kenneth Lawrie, councillors are being asked to look at ways to encourage community management – with suggestions including Grangemouth golf course, Polmonthill snowsport centre, Polmont sports centre, Muiravonside Country Park, Kinneil Museum and Estate, Bo’ness Town Hall, Grangemouth Town Hall and Zetland Park amenities.

The report states: “The long-term ambition for these facilities is for the community to take on a much greater role and for the Trust to reduce its contribution and associated costs.”

But the proposals have come under fire for describing communities currently having a “culture of entitlement”.

Members of Friends of Kinneil, an award-winning voluntary organisation which helps look after the Bo’ness estate, were outraged to find out about the proposals late on Friday night and have demanded the council does not discuss it any further until there has been proper consultation with local groups and councillors.

The group’s acting chairman Ian Shearer said: “This has caused a huge public reaction, not just among Bo’ness people.

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“We didn’t know anything about it until Friday evening and people had to go and find the document – it wasn’t as if the community trust told anyone this discussion had been tabled.

“This is Fair week in Bo’ness, there have been festivals in Grangemouth, it’s the last week of the school term and I don’t think people have had enough time to digest what’s in the document.”

Bo’ness recreation centre, Denny football centre, Denny sports centre and Hallglen sports centre are facing almost certain closure as the council admits the due to a “backlog of maintenance issues” they would not be suitable to pass into community management.

The report builds on the council’s commitment in its ‘business plan’ to get rid of buildings and reduce staff in its bid to save a further £76 million on top of annual budget cuts.

But it also says that getting rid of expensive assets will allow it to focus on the activities that do bring money in and could become self-financing.

The proposals also include plans to invest in the Mariner centre, Grangemouth sports complex, Grangemouth stadium, Carron gymnastics centre, Stenhousemuir gym, Helix, Callendar House and park, the Hippodrome and Falkirk Town Hall replacement arts centre.