THE TRUSTEES of Highworth Recreation Centre have called in Swindon Borough Council to help them after running into financial difficulties.

The council has said it will work with the trustees and Highworth Town Council for the next three months to safeguard the future of the town’s leisure centre, at The Elms.

Following a meeting between council officers and the trustees earlier this week it was agreed that an audit should be carried out to assess the full extent of the Highworth Recreation Trust’s debts.

Council officers will then devise a new business plan aimed at keeping the leisure centre open and said they would also approach Highworth Town Council for its support.

Bernie Brannan, the borough council’s director of housing and leisure, said the trustees had experienced cash flow problems following the three year refurbishment of the swimming pool, which reopened in 2008.

He said the Trust had anticipated being able to reclaim £200k of VAT from the cost of the build, but later found out this would not be possible. They also have a £400k loan from the borough council.

He said: “The refurbishment took longer and cost more than anticipated and there were problems with the boiler so the pool closed for a while, meaning there was not the same level of income coming in.

“They have got themselves into a bit of a pickle.

“The trustees can’t go into a trading year showing a deficit because in effect they would be insolvent and they are personally liable.”

He said many smaller leisure centres around the country were experiencing difficulties turning a profit because of the costs involved in running a swimming pool, such as heating and staffing.

Highworth Recreation Centre, which is a registered charity, is a joint venture between Swindon Council and the centre management committee, in association with Highworth Town Council.

The trust owns the swimming pool, the community hall, the pool changing facilities and the gym while Swindon Council owns the remainder of the leisure centre including the sports hall and the squash courts.

The leisure centre will operate as normal during this period and there are no plans to cut any activities or classes.

Coun Fionuala Foley, cabinet member for local environment and corporate affairs, said: “Highworth Rec is a valuable facility for the people of Highworth and it is unfortunate the trust have run into financial difficulties.

“We will be doing everything we can to ensure the leisure centre remains viable and that a suitable business plan is developed to safeguard its future.”