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The West Lothian Council Executive have voted to approve proposals to close three Xcite venues and step back from the running of Howden Park Centre. 

In the face of funding cuts, alongside post pandemic cost pressures, the rising cost of running facilities and the cost of future maintenance or refurbishment, West Lothian Leisure are faced with a £2.95m budget gap and therefore took the difficult decision to propose closure of the facilities which represent the greatest financial losses to the organisation. 

While this decision is necessary for the future of West Lothian Leisure, it is of course deeply upsetting, both for the employees at the affected venues and for the organisation as a whole.

In response to the vote, Ben Lamb, Chief Executive of West Lothian Leisure said:

“The purpose of West Lothian Leisure is to provide health and wellbeing services for the region, so closing venues is not what we want to do.  However, in the face of multiple economic pressures, change in the provision of leisure, health and wellbeing services in the region is unavoidable and the only way to secure the future of the services we provide to the people of West Lothian.”

Further to the decision, it has been confirmed that:

  • Xcite Livingston, Xcite Broxburn Pool and Xcite Armadale will close on 31st August 2023 
  • West Lothian Leisure will cease operating Howden Park Centre on 31st August 2023
  • Howden Park Centre will continue to operate under a third party until at least March 2024, with council officers continuing to explore longer term options for provision beyond that date

Ben Lamb continues: “We understand that this news comes as a massive blow to the teams that work at these venues. We will in due course seek to enter into formal consultation periods with our staff at the four affected sites regarding changes to their employment with us. 

“We hope to be able to provide as many redeployment opportunities as we can for the people that work across the three pool venues in order to attempt to minimise the need for any compulsory redundancies.  We have been acting in anticipation of our obligations and duties to our most at risk staff by not filling posts in other venues as they become vacant.  Additionally, we hope that as members and users transfer their activities across to our remaining facilities, the increased usage may also create new posts in the future.”

Now that the decision has been made by West Lothian Council, West Lothian Leisure will begin to communicate details of alternative provision with its customers.  Acknowledging that closures impact on users and community, the Trust is confident that most current users of Xcite Livingston, Xcite Broxburn Pool and Xcite Armadale can be accommodated across the network of remaining facilities, as can ongoing programmes. 

Separately, West Lothian Council has publicised its intention to seek an alternative future for Howden Park Centre via a short-term solution, while Council officers continue to explore longer term options for continued provision of Howden Park Centre as a theatre and arts venue, and as the permanent base for Firefly Arts.  West Lothian Leisure will work closely with the Council to secure positions for the current Howden Park team under a new operator beyond handover at the end of August, and to hand over live bookings and other operational information.

In conclusion, Ben Lamb said:

“As I have said before, none of us wants to be in this position.  But we have been left with no choice.  We are closing the facilities that represent the greatest financial losses, which cannot continue to operate without subsidy.  We have capacity at our other venues, and while we are indeed closing buildings, we are committed to using our remaining venues to maintain the gold-standard health, leisure, and wellness services our users have come to expect from us.”