THE FIRM now running Swindon's leisure services is facing an uphill battle over the coming years. 

Greenwich Leisure Limited took over running the services from Swindon Borough Council under the Better brand on November 1, in a bid to get rid of £1.4m costs from the council’s shrinking budget.

When asked what would happen to any profits made GLL's regional manager Steve Hercus said the services could make a greater loss in the coming year than when under council control.

"We have got an uphill battle over the next 25 years to make sure we can improve the trading position before any surpluses are realised," he said.

“However, because we are a not-for-profit company, any money made in the future will be re-invested into the facilities”.

Initial costs incurred during the transition include rebranding and a £3m refurbishment programme, including creating a new purpose-built library to be homed on the first floor of the Link Centre.

GLL expects those costs to plateau after the first year and the books to balance out.

As part of the deal, the West Swindon library will be moved from its current position to allow the gym to take up a more prominent position.

Diana Edmonds, the head of libraries at GLL, said the aim was to boost visitor numbers to the library while making the gym more profitable, reducing the deficit, which had been successful in other areas.

“We moved into the libraries sector in 2011 and manage two services, in Wands-worth and Greenwich,” she said.

“Our aim is to grow visitor numbers, and in Greenwich the number of people using our facilities has increased by 44 per cent over two years, while Wands-worth numbers have increased by 92 per cent.”

Designs for the new library are being discussed and it is expected to be homed over both floors the gym currently occupies.

Coun Jim Robbins, (Lab, Mannington and Western), said: “There is a big onus on us as a council to make sure we consult widely so that any proposals put forward are exactly what residents want and we are not making changes purely to make some parts more profitable or simply bend over backwards to support GLL.”

Coun Keith Williams, cabinet member for leisure, said: “The council have, for a number of years, been looking at relocating the gym downstairs.

“The gym generated revenue for the council which helped subsidise other assets, such as the library.

“The £1.2m annual cost of assets, including the library, mean that measures need to be taken such as trying to increase membership at the gym.”

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