A senior manager of the organisation which runs leisure services for Highland Council has warned that budget cuts will lead to “significant closures” and impact on the very people it was created to help.
Ian Murray, chief executive of High Life Highland, said that it was never meant to be run as a business, but to make facilities available to low-income families, among others.
Established in 2011, it is one of many departments which will have to slash costs as the council tries to balance its books by saving £64million over the next four years.
Initially created to save the council £1million, as well as protecting community facilities from closure, High Life Highland could potentially lose almost £3million of funding.
Two options were put forward in a consultation document released this week, which outline the proposals that the council is considering for the arms-length organisation.
In the first, a £1.9million funding cut would be imposed, but in a second phase, further reductions of £865,000 are proposed, as part of Highland Council’s total savings package.
Mr Murray said last night: “The last thing we want to do is increase fees as we have a social responsibility to provide facilities in communities, while encouraging mass participation.
“If the second option is enforced, it will mean the closure of well-known and popular buildings, but the exact extent of this will not be known until the council makes its final decision on December 18.
“The fact is that council services have to find 7%, but we have to find 11% over the four years, with 4% of that coming from our income.
“We did not expect phase two, which we have only been made aware of in the last few days, but it would be inaccurate to say it would not result in such significant closures.”
Discussions have taken place with regard to the initial £1.9million cuts, affecting every one of the nine services the organisation provides.
These include arts, adult learning, archive/family history, libraries, swimming pools and leisure centres, museums, sports, outdoor education, and youth work.
“We had plans in place to avoid closures, maximise income, and minimise redundancies – by doing things differently and monitoring the situation closely we could just about do it under the first phase,” he said.
“But we have to make councillors understand the implications of what they are proposing in the second, as well as encouraging members of the public to respond to the council consultation and put their views across.”