Council consider plans to privatise leisure centres

Victoria Park is one of three council leisure centres which could be outsourced.
Victoria Park is one of three council leisure centres which could be outsourced.

Erewash Borough Council are to move forward with proposals for the privatisation of sport and leisure services as a way to reduce costs.

Consultants Grant Thornton LLP were asked to find if efficiencies could be made, and at a meeting on Thursday, April 6, the council executive heard the initial findings of the report, and agreed to begin looking at external providers.

Phil Wright, the council’s director of operational services, said: “The report suggests that savings may be possible through the outsourcing of leisure services to a third party - either a private sector provider, an established multisite trust or a hybrid trust model.”

The report centred on operational responsibilities for facilities including three leisure centres, a sports park, tennis centre, golf course and artificial pitches.

It found that in-house models would be unlikely to produce the forecast £400,000 in savings needed to help meet the council’s budget reductions.

Phil added: “Grant Thornton has advised the council to undertake a soft market test and engage with service providers, on an informal basis, to determine the viability of any outsourcing exercise before proceeding.

“This will enable a robust business case to be produced and considered by the council executive in due course.”

The next stage will involve testing the degree of potential interest from suppliers, exploring possible contract models and working out service packages and costs to better assess what savings could be expected and produce a detailed business case.

Much of this work will also be done by consultants, and the council has granted senior officers authority to begin seeking that support. It is likely that the earliest a contract could be awarded would be the latter part of 2018.

Council services which aim to increase participation in sports and physical activity are unlikely to be affected as they are primarily funded from outside agencies with a concern for public health and wellbeing.

To read the full report and minutes of the council’s deliberations, go to http://bit.ly/2nZlEti.