The past year has been interesting for Rossendale, where a local leisure and culture consolidation programme has taken place through three mergers.
The borough council has played a key strategic and partnership role in helping several leisure and culture organisations to come together, using varying governance arrangements and refinancing arrangements with the council.
It would have been easier for the council to step back, but we recognised urgent action was needed to protect the future of partners delivering key local services.
The mergers have already had a positive impact, resulting in a more cost-efficient use of public funds, effective shared management, and the pooling of expertise. The whole process has been based on trust, openness, vision, care for our place, and working to identify solutions.
We have focused on retaining assets and their services for our local area and communities; ensuring their future viability and resilience; creating viable businesses employing local people and buying from local supply chains; mitigating the impacts of COVID-19 and rebuilding together; and finding the balance between efficiency and effectiveness.
The mergers have led to Rossendale Leisure Trust – established in 2004 and the largest not-for-profit charitable trust in our valley – forming a group structure to include other local cultural and leisure organisations.
The newly formed RLT Group includes intra-group and partnership agreements with Ski Rossendale, an outdoor ski and adventure facility, and the Whitaker Museum and Art Gallery; a full merger with the Community Leisure Association for Whitworth, responsible for a community-run leisure centre and civic hall; and the creation of a new trading company to enable aspects of the group to operate more commercially.
The partnership has protected smaller organisations through local amalgamations, bringing stronger strategic leadership and economies of scale to operations, and securing local assets for the future.
Although the Rossendale story is in its infancy, the bold approach taken by all partners has laid strong foundations, built on trust and openness, while delivering on a shared vision for the community.