A new group set up to run sport and leisure services across West Norfolk will start its work next week, it has been confirmed.
Officials insist the formation of the Alive Leisure charitable trust will secure the future of popular services and venues in the borough, as well as reducing their burden on taxpayers.
The trust will formally take over the management of five leisure and sporting facilities from West Norfolk Council on Monday.
The group will be running the Lynn Corn Exchange, Lynnsport and the St James swimming pool, as well as the Downham Leisure Centre and the Oasis leisure centre in Hunstanton.
It will also run a sports development programme and manage major events, such as the borough’s Village Games.
And open days will be held at all of the leisure centres on Sunday, September 14, for people to take part in have-a-go sessions and activities, as well as talking to staff about the trust’s plans.
Supporters say transferring the venues to the trust will save around £500,000 a year. Councillors voted to hand over £200,000 to help the trust meet its start-up costs in June.
The trust had been due to begin operations in July, only for the launch to be delayed amid concerns among opposition councillors, who voted against the cash transfer, about the speed of the switch.
Labour group leader John Collop said his party had wanted the scheme reviewed again.
He said: “In principle, it’s a good idea but there were too many holes in the report that nobody was prepared to give us an answer to.”
But David Pope, West Norfolk Council’s cabinet member for ICT, leisure and public space, said around a third of leisure facilities across the country are now run by such bodies, because of substantial reductions in business rates and VAT.
He said: “Transferring the management of these facilities to the trust goes a long way to helping the council balance its books whilst ensuring that leisure facilities are preserved for the future.
“It is a massive change to the way things are managed internally, but initially people will not notice a difference when they visit their local leisure centre or the Corn Exchange.
“In the longer term, the trust will, of course, have plans and ideas about how they wish to further develop the facilities available, which has to be great news for residents of the borough.”
Simon McKenna, the trust’s chief executive, said: “The trust is looking forward to taking over the excellent facilities and services previously managed by the council and we aim to build on this success by exploring new opportunities to further improve and develop services wherever possible.”
Chairman Peter Lemon, who thanked the borough council, for their help in setting up the trust, added: “We are looking forward to working with the hard working and dedicated staff to continue to provide excellent sports and leisure services in West Norfolk.”