A COUNCIL is to carry out an expensive public gym refurbishment despite having to make large budget cuts.

Darlington Borough Council is expected to spend thousands of pounds upgrading the gym at the Dolphin Centre, in Horsemarket, to provide new equipment and extended floor space.

The work will see a full decoration of walls, ceilings and lighting, with new entertainment systems fitted throughout the gym.

Loading article content

The improvements come as the council looks to save about £5m in the next two years and at least £11m during 2015 and 2016, and follow a report recommending the closure of Kids and Co children’s services in Borough Road and Northwood, which are operating at an annual loss of £212,000.

However, despite the financial worries, Bill Dixon, leader of Darlington Borough Council, said the changes were needed to ensure the successful future of the Dolphin Centre.

He said: “If we do not manage and refresh the Dolphin Centre, people will stop using it, the numbers will drop to an unacceptable level and we will have major income problems.

“We have to keep on top of it, and we vowed from the day it was built that it would never look shabby.

“If we weren’t constantly refurbishing the centre, it could start to signal the death knell for it, and we won’t let that happen.”

Coun Dixon said he fully sympathised with parents’ concerns over the potential removal of Kids and Co, but said the authority had to prioritise services due to budget restrictions.

Last month, Coun Dixon warned services in Darlington would be hit after Communities Secretary Eric Pickles cut town halls' spending powers.

He said: “These are huge amounts that will have to be cut, and they will hurt hard-working families.

“There will be massive hits to services that we are currently running, some will not be able to survive and it might mean that some jobs are delayed or do not get done.

“These are small percentages, but they equal big pennies, and this is going to be a hugely difficult time for everyone.”