Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Nairn Leisure - at arm's length but in a 'super-company'?

Last month we reported on the Highland Council's perceived intention to put about £20 million pound's worth of services. Old news then but what is interesting is in the detail of a P&J report today concerning Moray leisure facilities. Moray Council has decided not to axe them. The devil is in the detail however:

"Proposals to close facilities such as Lossiemouth swimming pool and Tomintoul museum attracted widespread opposition from community groups.

Moray Council’s deputy convener, councillor Allan Wright, said that the administration was “committed” to establishing trust status for all council’s leisure facilities.

Some admission charges will be put in place to prepare for the change. Within the next year, the council plans to set up a trust, either by itself or with Highland Council"

So it seems the two councils have been talking to each other on the prospect of a joint trust. Would that bring benefits or dangers to the long-term future of Nairn Swimming Pool? Each pool, or museum for that matter, will have its own dynamics based on the local community's use. It might be hard enough to treat all pools in Highland fairly under the management of a trust and Nairn would still have to fight its corner. Would it make it even more difficult if we had to also compete with Elgin, Forres and Lossiemouth etc for the attention of a trust's management if further difficulties arose?


Anonymous said...

£20 million pound's worth of services---

dubious use of apostrophe.


nairnbairn said...

The reference to possible collaboration between Moray and Highland Councils deserves some considered thought. The fact that the two Councils are (reportedly) talking to each other is significant: in most of the Highland Council's policy and planning, they seem to think that Auldearn is the eastern edge of the known world, and beyond that is unknown territory, chaos and darkness!

It may be true that in a combined agency or joint venture, Nairn's facilities would have to compete with those in Moray and elsewhere for funding and management attention. But there is another way of looking at this picture:

- when Nairn was linked with Moray(shire) in the "old days", it was often on the margins of the decision-making, with the weight of attention and effort focused around Elgin and its region.

- now that Nairn is part of Highland, it is similarly treated as being on the periphery and not part of the "real" Highlands (& Islands) region, or else it is overshadowed by, or worse regarded almost as a suburb of, Inverness.

In both cases, Nairn has been somewhat marginalised. There is surely a chance that if Moray and Highland were to be motivated, or forced by economic pressures, to collaborate, this might result in rather more sensible and coherent planning and management of the development, the infrastructure, the facilities and the services of the whole Moray Firth coastal area (the Laich of Moray), which is geographically economically and socially a single region.

Such a change ought to help re-establish a role for Nairn as a significant local and regional town which looks both eastwards and westwards. The Councils might even think it would make sense to locate some of their public services and offices in Nairn, the better to deal with issues (such as transport strategy and economic development) where joint planning is both efficient and necessary.

The risk however is that in their attempts to save money while retaining their inefficient and overstaffed central headquarters, neither Highland nor Moray Council will have the imagination to take such an approach. It would be a pity to see local facilities closed or amalgamated and front-line staff reduced, while the expensive and top-heavy administration and back-office services of both Councils - which could be merged and rationalised - remain unscathed.

Graisg said...

Thanks P.Edantic, you win another year's free subscription to the Gurn for you tireless efforts to keep us right.