Link4Life is the trading name of the Rochdale Boroughwide Cultural Trust. It is an independent company limited by guarantee and a registered charity. It is governed by a board of trustees who act in a voluntary capacity.
The purpose of the Trust is to lead and manage the delivery of high quality, enjoyable, affordable, accessible cultural provision in Rochdale Borough that gives residents and visitors the opportunity to lead the active, creative and healthy lifestyle of their choice.
Link4Life was established on 1 April 2007 to provide cultural and leisure services as commissioned by Rochdale Borough Council under a 15 year Partnership Agreement, with the option to extend. At that time, Council staff previously engaged in delivering sport, leisure and cultural services formally transferred their employment to the Trust.
Services provided cover four main areas:
- Arts and Heritage
- Fitness and Health
- Sport and Leisure
The decision to move services from local authority operation to a new and separate trust was taken by the Council's Cabinet at the end of 2005. All three political parties gave the proposal their support. This decision was based on the following situation:
- Pools and leisure centres were old and increasingly expensive to run
- New facilities were needed but the money wasn't there to maintain them or build new ones
- People were dissatisfied with poor quality and user numbers were falling year on year
- A history of budget pressures had led to cut backs and closures making services overall less viable. A future of long-term decline seemed inevitable.
A programme of investment in new sport, leisure and arts facilities was also agreed when the Trust was established. Over £34 million of investment has been made. Three new centres have opened – Middleton Arena, Heywood Sports Village and Rochdale Leisure Centre – with improvements made to other facilities. The borough of Rochdale now has some of the best facilities in the country
In brief summary, the basic benefit to Rochdale Council from having the Trust is about cost. When it was set up two things were 'fixed' – the quality and level of service that would be provided and the annual management fee the Council would pay. And in fact this fee reduces year on year – so every year it is better value for money for Council tax payers overall.
Even though Link4Life operate and manage these services the ownership of all the assets of the Borough remain with the Council. This includes all the building stock and also, for example, the Borough's art and heritage collections.
The Trust reports to the Council on progress and achievements on a regular basis. It supports Township priorities and works in partnership with the Council and the Public Service Reform Board to meet a shared vision for Rochdale Borough to develop as a prestigious sub-regional centre and as an attractive and healthy place to live and work.