Taxpayer to foot £3,000 debt bill for collapsed sports association

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Woodside Pavilion was managed by the now collapsed Lymington Sports Association

THE unexplained collapse of a sports association has left taxpayers out of pocket by more than £3,000.

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Lymington and Pennington Town Council has written off debt worth £3,337 owed by the Lymington Sports Association (LSA) when it suddenly shut down in February.

As reported in the A&T, the LSA was launched in 2016 as a way of supporting local sport. It took on management of the town council-owned pavilion at Woodside park after it was overhauled at a cost of more than £300,000.

The bad debt comprises unpaid energy bills and a partly unmet promise by the LSA to contribute £5,000 to the original revamp costs, to which other national and regional sport groups contributed.

Several thousand pounds more will have to be spent by the town council on redecorating the pavilion and reorganising it for more flexible community use.

The LSA’s debt was raised by Cllr Jack Davies at the latest meeting of the council’s policy and resources committee when members signed off its annual budgetary control report, before the local elections last Thursday.

Cllr Alan Penson said: “I do not think that’s something we should dwell on, as part of it was a one-off charge that we have not made to the other sports clubs, and perhaps it was a bit unreasonable anyway.

“We have actually done quite well out of it because the LSA paid charges and costs and we received rent. I do not think it’s something we should dwell on.”

Cllr Jacqui England asked if the facility was still “up and running” and what charges sports clubs were now paying.

Town clerk Caroline Godfrey said: “The building is operational and we’re looking at the locks and making checks. But it’s been operational since the date of the LSA’s demise.

“[Charges] are what we’re working through. We’re suggesting an interim charging schedule which the clubs are working on for what’s affordable.”

As reported in the A&T, Woodside pavilion is due for redecoration and maintenance after the LSA’s departure, and the old furniture was recently sold off by the town council.

Although the building is still hosting Lymington Mariners RFC and Lymington Sprites Youth FC, the New Forest Football Academy has stopped activities there.

After the meeting, Mrs Godfrey told the A&T: “I have not spoken to the LSA directors since February when they gave us the keys back.

“They said that, unfortunately, the people who made up their core operation and directorship have fallen by the wayside. There seem to have been various reasons going on.

“They said there was going to be a new directorship and different people were going to come in to run the account and be treasurer and bar manager. A lot of promises were made to me and [former LSA chair] Mark Seamer.”

Decoration promised by the LSA, such as painting some rooms, had not been completed, she said. The town council would now bring it up to a “viable” standard at a likely cost of several thousand pounds, she added.

Mrs Godfrey said internal changes might be made and new furniture bought to allow more flexible use of the building in sections to make hire costs more attractive to users.

Neither Mr Seamer nor Cllr James Brushwood, a former LSA vice-chair and town councillor, responded to a request for comment by A&T.

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