Activity centre used by Redbridge schoolchildren at risk as subsidy cut nears

�An outdoor activity centre for Redbridge schoolchildren which has been threatened with closure must keep its subsidy – which is soon to go – councillors were told this week.

Glasbury House, on the banks of the River Wye in Hereford, was saved from the axe in March when councillors overturned a decision to scrap its �255,000 annual council subsidy.

But despite the removal of the funding being re-profiled until 2015, Iain Varah, the chief executive of Vision Redbridge, which runs the borough’s leisure services, told councillors on Tuesday the centre would struggle on a subsidy of less than �100,000.

He said: “I don’t think it will ever get to a position where it will break even with the current ethos of operation.

“It’s my personal view that we need a subsidy of �100,000 per annum.

“At one stage it cost us �400,000 per year.

“It is value for money.”

Most Read

The Georgian manor house, which is owned by the council, provides accommodation for Redbridge schoolchildren and a chance to enjoy gorge scrambling, rock-climbing and abseiling in the surrounding countryside.

And twelve schools gave �1,000 each this year to keep it running, following a request from the then cabinet member for leisure, Cllr Sue Nolan.

But, uncertainty over its future had a “huge impact on bookings for this financial year” according to a council report.

Seven schools not renewing their bookings led to between �60,000 and �70,000 being lost in income.

Cllr Wes Streeting, speaking at the overview committee meeting in Redbridge Town Hall, Ilford, said: “We received �12,000 from schools but we lost up to �70,000 in bookings.

“I think there’s a lesson to be learned.”

The subsidy is currently due to fall to �65,000 by 2014/15 and end completely the following year.

Mr Varah outlined a number of measures being taken to generate income, including marketing the centre to schools outside the borough and developing The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award opportunities on site.

Redbridge council leader Cllr Keith Prince said: “It is viable but it may need a change in the way we operate the centre.”