MEMBERS of the public who are members of a group of school sports centres might have to find somewhere else to train next spring.

Somerset County Council is pulling out of its role in community leisure facilities once its current contract expires, if recommendations are approved.

The authority’s ten-year contract with 1610 Limited on eight school sites across the county expires at the end of March 2019.

The financially-pressed council has no statutory responsibility to provide leisure services and stopping to commission leisure services and transfer the facilities to the schools would save £900,000 in management fees a year, plus the cost of maintaining and repairing the facilities.

A council spokesman said schools and their pupils will be able to continue using the facilities, but it is highly unlikely they will all be able to provide the same community access.

Cllr David Hall, cabinet member for economic development, planning and community infrastructure, said: "We’re committed to delivering the very best services possible, but we have to live within our means.

"Our focus has to be delivering our core responsibilities, particularly those that support our vulnerable residents.

"The council has been in discussion with the schools and 1610 for some time regarding the end of the contract and, as much as we might like to support access to leisure facilities, it’s not something we have a responsibility for and we can no longer afford the costs that come with it."

The school-based community leisure facilities included in the 1610 contract are:

•Caryford Fitness & Leisure Centre, Ansford Academy, near Castle Cary;

•Castle Sports Centre, The Castle School, Taunton;

•Crewkerne Sports Centre, Wadham School, Crewkerne;

•Glastonbury Leisure Centre, St Dunstan’s Academy, Glastonbury;

•King Alfred’s Sports Centre, at The King Alfred Schoolin Highbridge;

•Preston Sports Centre and Gym, at Preston School in Yeovil;

•Stanchester Sports Centre, Stanchester Academy, Stoke-sub-Hamdon;

•West Somerset Sports & Leisure Centre, West Somerset College, Minehead.

1610 will continue to work with The King Alfred School in Highbridge and Preston School in Yeovil to provide leisure facilities. These leases have been extended and services there will be unaffected.

If the recommendations are approved and the transfer of buildings takes place, continued community access would not be a condition of the transfer.

Schools have no responsibility to provide community leisure facilities and each will have to work within their own financial constraints and the associated safeguarding complications that comes with running dual use sites.

The council would welcome community access where possible, but it fully appreciates that arrangements are likely to change.

All other 1610 Limited facilities and services outside of this contract, including those at Bridgwater’s Chilton Trinity School and Robert Blake Science College, would not be affected by this decision.

Cllr Hall added: "We would be delighted to see community access continue, but completely understand this may not be possible in all cases."

If recommendations are approved, a decision would be made on Monday, December 10. Council officers would continue to support the schools and 1610 on managing the end of the contract community users of facilities would be kept informed as details are finalised.

If the decision is taken, some changes are likely to take place before the end of March as the council has agreed to a phased approach to make the transfer more manageable for 1610.

The decision will be discussed by the policies and place scrutiny committee when it meets next Tuesday (November 13).