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Wrangle continues over Frome Leisure Centre

THE management of Frome Leisure Centre is at the centre of a dispute between Mendip District Council, which runs the centre, and Somerset County Council and Frome Community College.
The district council says that its commitment to improving open access at the leisure centre is being blocked, and that discussions with Frome College and Somerset County Council have broken down. However, the county council and Frome College say that they are prepared to continue discussions to sort out problems which have arisen. In a press statement, Mendip District Council, say, “Over recent weeks discussions have been taking place about the use of Frome Leisure Centre and how this large asset can be used efficiently and not left idle at substantial cost at large parts of the day. The centre, which is run by Mendip District Council and operated by Avalon Leisure, is at the middle of a bid by Frome College for academy status. “Frome College’s principal wants the current management agreement of the centre signed over to the academy to help facilitate the college’s bid for academy status. “The council who has been actively involved in discussions with the college for a number of weeks and is aware of the importance of the academy bid for the college, has raised concerns that the management agreement being proposed does not work in favour of taxpayers and the local community and would see open access for the local community to the centre blocked. “The council is also concerned that the discussions have now broken down as the principal has stated that she is unwilling to enter into any further discussions or negotiations to put the management agreement to a conclusion that is agreed by all parties.” Cllr Tom Killen, deputy leader of Mendip District Council said, “We are disappointed that the discussion and negotiations have halted, the council is aware of the importance of facilitating the conversion to academy status and we have shown our commitment to this by being actively involved in discussions. “However our paramount focus has to be on ensuring that any agreement made is of benefit to the local community. Any resolution made will need to achieve a balance between the college’s requirements to access the centre and facilities and Mendip’s need to ensure that there is open access to the local community. “Whilst this means that at the present time we are not able to agree the management agreement for the centre, we remain prepared to negotiate on the terms and would hope that the college would want to be active in these discussions.” In reply, a joint statement by Somerset County Council and Frome Community College says, “Somerset County Council is supportive of schools who want to convert to academy status who have a successful track record in standards, inspections and financial management. “In order to convert and maintain business as usual, the governing body need to change their name on the Shared Use Agreement which regulates the use of the leisure centre to the academy trust. The conversion to academy status should change nothing in the leisure centre relationship between Somerset County Council, Mendip District Council and Frome Community College. “The college and Somerset County Council have always been prepared to continue talks with Mendip District Council to reach a positive conclusion and resolve any misunderstandings which have arisen.” Now, Mendip District Council says they have taken the step of writing to all Frome College governors, “following the principal being reluctant to involve the governors and in a bid to restart negotiations with the college at board level to help deliver a solution that meets the needs of all parties.” Donna Nolan, governance, assets and public spaces corporate manager at Mendip District Council said, “We have worked hard to explore options for progressing matters in a way that would fit everyone’s requirements. “Officers and councillors from the Corporate Asset Management Group (CAMG) would be keen to meet with the board of governors to explore the options further with the aim to work towards an outcome that all parties are comfortable with. “We understand from discussions with the college, the Department of Education and Somerset County Council that it is feasible for the college to proceed with the conversion to academy status without the benefit of the management agreement.”