Hundreds of redundancies are on the cards for Kirklees Active Leisure (KAL) staff, as massive cuts continue to threaten Kirklees’ services.
Trade union, UNISON, says it has been informed by KAL – the organisation that runs 11 leisure centres on Kirklees Council’s behalf – that 235 redundancies are planned across five of its centres and head office. The affected centres include Batley Sports and Tennis Centre; Colne Valley Leisure Centre; Dewsbury Sports Centre; Holmfirth Pool and Fitness Centre; Stadium Health and Fitness.
The council had already planned to close the facilities at Batley, Dewsbury and Slaithwaite, with public consultation currently ongoing. KAL will also be withdrawing from centres at Deighton and the Stadium, with alternative operating arrangements being explored. This came to light in a contentious cabinet report last week, with plans also being progressed to close care homes, slash services and mothball buildings.
The council has said that it can’t continue to provide KAL with the same level of financial support due to its own pressures which has resulted in the review and planned reduction of the district’s leisure offering. In the local authority’s budget for the last financial year, a £6.1m rescue package was provided to KAL to help it address its money woes but going forward, the council says it can give the organisation a maximum of £2.55m per year.
KAL’s financial issues began during the Covid-19 pandemic and were exacerbated when the cost of living crisis took hold, seeing the cost of utilities go through the roof. Another major funding strain for the organisation is reported to be the increase to the National Living Wage, with 53% of all staff earning this amount.
On top of the potential job losses at KAL, Kirklees Council had previously announced it will be axeing 250 jobs by March and is looking to make up to 750 members of its work force redundant in total to help balance its books and stave off effective bankruptcy.
The union says the cuts demonstrate the real-life impact of years of underfunding local government and has urged ministers to step in.
UNISON Yorkshire and Humberside regional organiser Robin Symonds said: “There’s now a real sense of what council cuts could mean for the people of Kirklees.
“Jobs are going, care homes face closure and now leisure centres are at risk.
“It’s local residents who will suffer as the council tries to deal with the fallout from over a decade of government underfunding.
“Worryingly, more vital services and jobs could be at risk unless the government intervenes with the lifeline of significant extra funding.”