COUNCIL-OWNED leisure services are not bringing in enough cash – and now residents are being urged to ‘use them or lose them’.

Swindon Council’s housing, libraries, leisure and culture services have suffered a shortfall of about £355,000 for 2011/12 because of the recession, with income for the council’s recreational services – including the Oasis and Link Centre – down by 25 per cent.

Bernie Brannan, group director of housing, leisure, libraries and culture, said: “Our costs are in fact below budget but the economic climate is very difficult at the moment and we are doing all that we can with marketing, but you will find most leisure outlets across the country are struggling because disposable income is down.

“We know our footfall is down but we are working at targeting and marketing particular services, especially off-peak times, two-for-one offers to try and attract people in, but it is a competing market and if people haven’t got the money and aren’t to do things like ice-skating or swimming like they used to then we are going to struggle.

“We are doing the right things in the right way and all we can do is keep it up: we have reduced costs where we can but we have to keep a swimming pool heated and we have to have a lifeguard whether or not there is one person swimming or 100.

“I can reassure residents that there are no planned closures but basically, they should use it or lose it.

“If they continue not to use them, there will be no reason for them to be open.”

However, the Labour group’s lead for leisure, Coun Jim Grant, said the figures were a concern.

“What worries me more is that the council needs to cut £1m from the leisure budget over the next two years.

“Where is the administration intending to find this money?

“In August 2010, the administration spent £43,000 on consultants to give the council options on what to do with its leisure services. They completed that report earlier this year yet there has still been no proposals over what the council might do to put its leisure services on a sustainable footing.

“Whatever action needs to be taken to make Swindon Council’s leisure services more sustainable, it needs to be taken now. Otherwise residents might find their most treasured leisure services will be completely lost.”