28th Oct, 2016

Multi-million leisure centres facelift prompts private operator row

Ian Hughes 29th Oct, 2015 Updated: 3 hours ago

COUNCIL chiefs have agreed to spend £12million revamping leisure centres in Warwick and Leamington.

Warwick District Council’s Executive gave the green-light to the investment plan for Newbold Comyn and St Nicholas Park Leisure Centres subject to a further report next summer.

But the decision to bring in a contractor to run them – rather than running them in house – has prompted criticism of the Conservative run authority.

Labour councillor Kristie Naimo said: “We are concerned that a private contractor will increase membership fees for the public and not provide adequate contracts for our staff.”

“Our in house team have worked tirelessly over the past 12 months and delivered vast improvements at our existing facilities. Financial plans show that they can do as well as any private operator. Why are they not then being trusted to run our new, improved facilities?”

“The public may wonder why we would invest £12million in improving our facilities only to hand most of the future profits over to a private contractor, with hundreds of thousands of pounds leaving the district.

But council leader Andrew Mobbs defended the move.

He said: “The decision to seek an external partner for the management of our leisure facilities is not one that we have taken lightly.

“Over the last 30 years the council’s in-house team have developed and delivered a professional and well-respected service across the district.

“However, it would be remiss of the council, when the financial pressures are greater than ever on discretionary services, not to offer this opportunity to other operators. The leisure management sector is a mature market with many quality companies operating facilities on behalf of local authorities. This should not be seen as ‘selling off council services’; it is about finding a company that we can work in partnership with to provide high quality, accessible services for all our local residents.”

The planned refurbishment and improvement programme will include the creation of new health and fitness, and changing facilities; upgraded reception areas in both centres; and a new four-court sports hall at Newbold Comyn.

The plans – which are expected to be rubber-stamped by the full council on November 18 – will ensure the centres are fit for purpose for up to another 30 years.