By Monica Gibson

Bookworms, gym bunnies and art enthusiasts face the prospect of having to fork out more for their fun as budget cuts begin to bite.

As revealed by the Barrhead News earlier this month, East Renfrewshire Council is having to make almost £30 million in savings over the next three years.

And, as a result, East Renfrewshire Culture and Leisure (ERCL) will have £330,000 less to play with.

Although independent of the council, ERC provides ERCL with a management fee to operate services such as sports centres, libraries and community halls.

The first three years of the agreed management fee is nearing completion and a review in funding could lead to some of the services the trust provides disappearing, as well as a rise in membership fees in a bid to make up the shortfall.

We can reveal that ERC’s budget plans for 2018-21 state: “Whilst the level of funding we provide to ERCL is not likely to change significantly in cash terms, it will not be enough to cover the pressures of inflation.

“As such, the trust’s costs will increase and there could be a funding gap which ERCL would need to bridge through increasing income, finding further efficiencies or reducing some services.”

With more than 400 employees, ERCL delivers sport, leisure, arts and culture services across the region.

It operates 10 libraries, four sports centres with gyms and pools, a 330-seat theatre and 18 community facilities incorporating a wide range of halls, social function venues, community centres and pavilions.

One of the trust’s aims is to help individuals and community groups benefit from social engagement, community interaction and volunteering.

It also encourages the population of East Renfrewshire to be more active and creates fitness opportunities that are accessible for everyone.

Since being created in 2015, the trust has achieved some impressive results.

A recent performance report showed that ERCL had a total of 1,421 players engaging in a soccer development programme – an increase of around seven per cent.

ERCL also reported 10,222 theatre attendances and, on average, 2,301 swim registrations per lesson block.

Anthony McReavy, chief executive of ERCL, said: “For several years we have seen public sector finances squeezed and all of us in the frontline of delivering services to communities have been forced to make difficult choices.

“The next few years are no different.

“We understand that, as a provider of sports, leisure and cultural services, we face a £330,000 reduction in our funding over the next three years and, just like any business in these circumstances, we need to either bring in more income or spend less.”

He added: “It’s too early to say exactly how we can achieve increased income or make savings that amount to £330,000 but, however it comes about, the people of East Renfrewshire can be assured all our efforts will go into getting – and continue giving – our customers the best value for money in sports, leisure and cultural services.”