Sheffield Council accused of ‘inflating’ stadium subsidies

Don Valley Stadium
Don Valley Stadium

SHEFFIELD Council has been accused of ‘over-stating’ the size of subsidies given to Don Valley Stadium and Stocksbridge Leisure Centre to justify their closure.

Campaigners in Stocksbridge say they understand the subsidy of the town’s leisure centre is around £200,000 rather than the £400,000 quoted by the council.

A demonstration outside Stocksbridge Leisure Centre against proposals to close it.

A demonstration outside Stocksbridge Leisure Centre against proposals to close it.

Meanwhile, opposition Liberal Democrat councillors said the subsidy given to Don Valley when they were in power up to 2011 was £500,000 a year.

It means it would have risen by 40 per cent to work out at the current £700,000 quoted by council chiefs.

Jess Ennis’s coach Tony Minichiello said he understood the annual subsidy given to Don Valley Stadium, which is run by Sheffield International Venues on behalf of Sheffield City Trust, is ‘closer to £600,000’.

Mr Mincihiello said: “I would want some clarity about the actual size of the subsidy and what it is for. I have heard a figure closer to £600,000 for the subsidy for Don Valley.

“I think this does raise some serious questions about the leadership and competence of the people in charge at the council. They are in a position of great trust.

“I have been asked whether I think the council is closing Don Valley Stadium and other facilities to make a political point to the Government about cuts. As a citizen of Sheffield I would be incredibly disappointed if, having voted these people in, they have behaved in such a way.

“If they have inflated the figures to make a political point to Westminster on behalf of their party, they will have betrayed the trust of the city and should step aside.”

Mr Minichiello said he was also concerned the stadium had been allowed to run at a loss for years.

He added: “Next year there will be further cuts which could affect services. The council leadership should act now to ensure we don’t lose more libraries or even a facility such as Ponds Forge.”

Coun Shaffaq Mohammed, Lib Dem opposition leader on Sheffield Council, said: “I think the figures may have been overstated - when we were in power the subsidy was £500,000 and I can’t get my head around where £700,000 is going - it’s a 40 per cent increase in two years.

“The council needs to open the books and be honest.”

Meanwhile, Stocksbridge UKIP town councillor Jack Clarkson, who is among campaigners fighting to save the town’s leisure centre, believes its losses are also lower than the £400,000 Sheffield Council claims.

He said: “The annual subsidy needed may have been inflated by £200,000. I am asking Sheffield Council to conduct an inquiry.”

Coun Clarkson also alleged losses made by Sheffield International Venues at an event called Sheftival - a ‘festival of music sport and culture’ held during last year’s Olympics but which was poorly-attended - were up to ten times greater than the £10,000-£20,000 quoted by the company.

He claims the extra losses were reallocated to other leisure centres.

Andrew Snelling, deputy chief executive of Sheffield International Venues, said: “The allegations made by Coun Jack Clarkson are completely false and no costs from elsewhere in SIV have been apportioned to Stocksbridge Leisure Centre. The budget figure of £400,000 to run Stocksbridge Leisure Centre is the true figure.

“The subsidy from SCC required to run Don Valley Stadium has varied in recent years due to departure of Rotherham United in 2012 and the level of essential maintenance costs.

“The budget for 2012/13 was £600,000 for day to day operational costs but the full saving to SCC is £700,000 including head office cost and reallocation of members to our other venues.”

Paul Billington, director of culture and environment, said: “We strongly refute the range of figures quoted by others which are incorrect on what the current level of subsidy Sheffield Council gives to both Don Valley Stadium and Stocksbridge Leisure Centre. Our figures are correct and are part of our budget setting process.

“We can reconfirm that the full year cost and therefore total savings to the council in 13/14 are £700,000 for DVS and £400,000 for SLC. The figure of £600,000 for DVS is only the day-to-day running costs.

“In recent years, the running costs of DVS have averaged at £730,000. Clearly the figures vary from year to year - but the main change in the last couple of years is the loss of income due to Rotherham United relocating to their own stadium. There is no link between SLC and Sheftival. We therefore believe that an inquiry into subsidy levels at SLC is not warranted.”