BY KEITH MACKENZIE
A petition has been launched in a bid to safeguard the Lochalsh Leisure Centre in Kyle from council budget cuts.
The Kyle-based centre, which includes a swimming pool and fitness suite, receives assistance every year though a service level agreement with Highland Council, who pay £50,000 in return for the services the facility offers to the local community.
That money is now under threat from an immediate 10 per cent cut in funding, with potential for much further reductions to follow in the years to come.
As part of their proposed £64 million savings package the council have suggested that facilities like the Lochalsh centre should have to apply each year for a share of an overall fund of £715,000. That pot will itself be reduced from the £1.5 million currently available to assist museums, sports and leisure facilities, village halls and youth groups.
Fears that the uncertainty over funding could force the centre — which employs seven staff — to close have now sparked a local campaign.
An online petition, distributed via social media, has already atttacted over 900 signatures, with dozens more added locally in Lochalsh and south Skye.
Leisure centre manager Chris Mackinnon described the facility as “one of the enduring success stories in the Skye, Lochalsh, and Wester Ross area”. He said he had been heartened by the level of local support shown for it in recent weeks.
“The response from the community has been brilliant,” he added. “Every day I am getting phone calls and e-mails, enquiring what can be done to help.”
Lochalsh and Wester Ross councillor Audrey Sinclair said: “It’s a well-run and well-used facility which plays a very important role in Lochalsh, Wester Ross and South Skye. It would be a huge miss if it wasn’t there.
“They need certainty over funding to be able to plan ahead. But for the service it gives to the community £50,000 each year isn’t a lot.”
Last week opposition councillors called on the Glenurquhart Road administration to increase council tax by five per cent in a bid to protect public services — a move with which Councillor Sinclair said she agreed.
The administration is due to present its budget savings proposals to a meeting of the full council on 18th December.