Jobs at risk as council hands back leisure centre to its owners

Dorset Council is planning to hand over the running of a leisure centre to the school that owns it putting 40 jobs at risk.

Queen Elizabeth Leisure Centre is being handed back to its owners, Queen Elizabeth’s School Trust, which also owns the adjacent school at Wimborne Minster.

Following the decision by elected members back in early 2022, the trustees were given two years’ notice by Dorset Council confirming that they would withdraw from the current management arrangements at QELC at the end of March 2024.

The day-to-day operation of the facility will becomes the responsibility of the Trust.

This decision was made as the council subsidises QELC by around £500,000 each year, which is around a third of its overall leisure centres’ budget.

In an area where seven public leisure facilities are within a 20 min drive of QELC – three of which are owned by Dorset Council – it was considered that the council could not justify the continued public-funding of the centre.

As the Trust has been unable to reach an agreement with a new partner to manage the facility, they have now confirmed that QELC will cease operating as it does now on 31 March 2024.

The facilities will still be utilised for the school curriculum and made available for community clubs and groups during non-school use times.

Future bookings and administration will be managed through the school’s staff.

QELC currently has around 40 permanent employees; nine full-time workers, with a further 31 in part-time roles.

Everyone at risk of redundancy has entered a 45-day period of formal consultation with Dorset Council.

During this time, those under threat of redundancy will be kept informed of redeployment opportunities and vacant posts that the council has across its other services and they will be given priority if they meet the requirements of the role.

Dorset Council will work with Initio Learning Trust (who operate Queen Elizabeth’s School) over the coming months to inform current QELC customers, user groups, and clubs about what is happening with services and scheduled activities in the future.