East Lindsey arts festival and leisure services to be run by trust

Granny Turismo performing in Skegness Image copyright Other
Image caption East Lindsey District Council currently spends about £350,000 on its events programme

A Lincolnshire arts festival, leisure centre and theatre are to be removed from council control to save the authority money.

East Lindsey District Council approved plans to move control of the So Festival, Embassy Theatre in Skegness and Meridian Leisure Centre in Louth to a charitable trust.

Officials said it would allow the facilities to access new funding.

The authority claimed it would also save at least £1m over five years.

Councillor Adam Grist, portfolio holder for culture, leisure and tourism, said: "It should save a significant sum of money, which is obviously important given the revenue challenges we face.

"But it actually opens up other opportunities, including access to grants, so I think it's a win-win in that respect.

"If we keep our leisure services in-house, I think we would be under severe pressure to shed jobs, so by doing this we are protecting staff. This is not about job losses."

Image copyright Google
Image caption Embassy Theatre, in Skegness, is among services which cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to run

The council has seen a £1.9m (13.9%) cut in central government funding this financial year, on top of £1.2m the previous year.

It said the Meridian Leisure Centre, which only opened in 2010, currently required a £250,000 annual subsidy.

About £350,000 is spent on its events programme, which includes the So Festival.

As well as access to grants, charitable status would bring business rates and VAT relief.

Mr Grist explained the proposals were for the council to pay the trust a management fee, which would decrease over time.

The authority would have members on the trust's board, would retain ownership of the buildings and also insist on guarantees for employees' pay and conditions.

It is hoped the trust will be up and running by January 2015.

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