A LEISURE trust set up to run sport and arts centres in Consett and Stanley is to be officially closed tomorrow.

Nine people have been made redundant following the collapse of Derwentside Trust for Sport and the Art, which trades as Leisureworks.

It is understood the organisation, set up in 2007 by the now defunct Derwentside District Council, has suffered financially due to cuts in Government funding.

Durham County Councillor Alex Watson, who was leader of Derwentside District Council when Leisureworks was established, said staff had not been treated fairly.

He said it was ‘outrageous’ that nine staff involved in the management of the trust had been ‘abandoned’ while over 200 others had been transferred back to the local authority.

Coun Watson said: “Leisureworks employees have stayed extremely loyal to the county council, but unfortunately this loyalty has fell on stony ground.

“I find this to be outrageous and desperately unfair. They wanted their dignity and respect that they so richly deserved and some are devastated at the thought of being unemployed.”

Stephen Howell, the Durham County Council’s head of culture and sport, said the authority has been working alongside Leisureworks for ‘some time’ to look at ways it could continue to deliver services on reduced funding.

He said: “This is a direct result of the cuts in Government funding that the council is currently having to deal with.

“After extensive consideration, ourselves and Leisureworks have agreed that the best option is for the council to take the activities provided by them back in-house.

“This decision was reached by both parties in full knowledge that not all staff would be eligible to transfer.”

For the last 11 years, Leisureworks has been responsible for running the Louisa Centre in Stanley, the Empire Theatre in Consett and Consett Leisure Centre.

Mr Howell said: “We are not bringing the trust in-house, but rather the activities it delivers at Consett Leisure Centre, the Louisa Centre, in Stanley and the Empire Theatre in Consett, as well as a range of community-based activities.

“The staff delivering these activities will transfer. This approach will allow us to provide more cost-effective services and, hopefully, enable greater sustainability of services for residents, despite challenging financial times.

“These decisions are never easy, but please be reassured that we have worked closely with the trust to provide support for those staff not eligible for transfer.

“We very much hope there will be minimal interruption to residents and users during this transfer.”