COUNCIL leaders in Sunderland have rejected the idea that price rises or redundancies could be on the cards at a popular outdoor education and training centre.

Derwent Hill, in the Lake District, which has been visited by generations of Sunderland families, faces an uncertain future due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

But bosses promised to shield staff and Wearside’s youngsters from efforts to cut costs and boost income at the venue.

Victoria French, Sunderland City Council’s assistant director of culture and events, said: “We were asked to look at everything, and everything was on the table around how we could make savings.

“One thing that was looked at that [we were] asked not to proceed with looking at the subsidy level that we have for Sunderland school children – that was quickly dismissed.

“What we’ve looked at instead is how we can achieve that target with growth opportunities, rather than savings.”

French was speaking at last night’s (Thursday, February 11) meeting of the city council’s Scrutiny Co-ordinating Committee, which was held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube.

Fears for the future of Derwent Hill were raised the last time the panel met (January 14), following a report on council spending plans which suggested a ‘review of staffing arrangements’ at the venue could save £37,000.

Ms French said no redundancies were planned, with savings expected from cutting vacant posts.

Efforts to improve offers for family holidays and business away days, as well as school trips, are being considered, including the purchase of several new camping pods.

Cllr Pat Smith, one of the first to demand answers on Derwent Hill’s future, said she was relieved the ‘dirty word’ of redundancies was not being considered.

She said: “Derwent Hill is a fantastic place, it’s had a lot of work and effort over the years and it’s been a marvellous thing for the young people and  the families of Sunderland.

“All [city] councillors, in any of the political parties, would be very upset to see anything happen to it – it’s too precious.

“We need to find the money for those camping pods, we need to outlay money to make money.”