Leisure boss quits as budget slashed

NL chief Blane Dodds says he wants a fresh challenge.
NL chief Blane Dodds says he wants a fresh challenge.

North Lanarkshire Leisure’s boss has announced he is stepping down – weeks after a £1 million cut in funding was confirmed.

Chief executive Blane Dodds had warned staff of a pay freeze this year and said budget pressures would have a “major impact” on services.

However, NL Leisure revealed this week he won’t be leading the charitable trust through the funding crisis as he is seeking a “fresh challenge” elsewhere.

It said Mr Dodds has had a highly successful 10 years in charge, with customer numbers more than doubling while income levels have never been higher.

Councillor Jim Logue, the newly-elected leader of North Lanarkshire Council and outgoing chairman of NL Leisure, paid tribute to Mr Dodds:

He said: “Blane’s role in the success of NL Leisure has been invaluable. The board recognises the considerable significance his contribution has made in establishing us as a leader in the sector.”

NL Leisure runs sports facilities on behalf of the council and Mr Dodds said: “We are all very proud of delivering more and more customers with less and less public money, demonstrating our efficiency year after year.”

However, the organisation has come in for criticism after a restructure led to salary cuts for some employees.

Then four months ago Mr Dodds warned of an across-the-board pay freeze due to an anticipated cut in funding from the council. He said a freeze was needed if further jobs cuts were to be avoided.

In this month’s budget the council confirmed that management fees for both NL Leisure and Culture NL would be cut by £1 million.

Mr Dodds, a former Scottish tennis internationalist, was also criticised earlier this year for taking the post of chairman of Tennis Scotland.

Critics said he should be concentrating all his energy on leading NL Leisure, but he hit back, saying the post was unpaid and he would be carrying out his duties in his own time.