Community use of QE Leisure Centre to be re-negotiated
THE MOVE to Academy Status by the Queen Elizabeth's School in Wimborne, potentially from 1st November this year, is being viewed as an opportunity to change the joint use agreement under which community facilities are made available with funding from East Dorset District Council.
The council's strategic director Neil Farmer told the resources committee that when the school became an academy, the county council would no longer have to part fund the leisure centre, whose school use would become the responsibility of the Academy governors.
The joint use agreement, originally drawn up in 1987, currently involves the school, the county and the district council, and the county's contribution this year is expected to be more than £260,000, but will not be guaranteed past 2015/16.
The district's share is 60 per cent of revenue costs.
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Mr Farmer said: "In 2009 an amended agreement was reached which the school governors did not sign, so we are continuing to operate under the 1987 agreement.
"We have had to force the issue on how Academy status impacts on this council, and the 1987 agreement needs to be amended to only involve this council and the school governors.
"It is a rare opportunity to try and get a better deal. Council officers manage some of the school campus, which is not your asset, and there could be a completely new operating model.
"I have every reason to believe that our 30 year relationship will continue, but we do need assurances that someone is going to pay the bill."
He suggested that the council's negotiating position would be stronger if the decision to endorse the terms of the revised agreement in 2009 were rescinded, and asked members to instruct officers to enter into negotiations to prepare a new partnering agreement.
Councillor Simon Tong, who was head teacher of the QE school at the time when the joint use agreement was first drawn up, said: "There is no intention by this council to withdraw community facilities at the leisure centre. We mustn't lose sight of that. But when the agreement was first signed, the conditions were extremely favourable to the school because the council wanted the leisure centre.
"We would be failing in our responsibilities as guardians of the public purse if we did not do this now. We should give formal notice of the council's intention to re-negotiate, and I recommend that the final version of any new agreement should be presented to this committee on 26th March 2014.
"It took four years to conclude the 2009 amendments."
The recommendation was agreed.