Erewash council push to privatise leisure centres criticised by Labour

Victoria Park Leisure Centre, Ilkeston, will be taken over by a private operator if Erewash Borough Council push ahead with their plans.
Victoria Park Leisure Centre, Ilkeston, will be taken over by a private operator if Erewash Borough Council push ahead with their plans.

Erewash Borough Council is to begin moving towards privatised delivery of sport and leisure services, but Labour say it would be an own goal.

The council executive agreed to take the proposal to next month’s full council meeting after considering a report on it on Tuesday.

Rutland Sports Park would also be included in the deal.

Rutland Sports Park would also be included in the deal.

Bosses will recommend the council invites expressions of interest from contractors for running leisure services – although the facilities would remain council property.

Councillor Mike Wallis, the member for culture and leisure, said: “There has been a lot of hard work carried out to prepare a document that gives a detailed service specification for leisure services.

“We thank residents who shared their views with us to help us in preparing this document. It is right that the matter should go to full council for a decision on the next step.”

The tendering process would potentially involve services including Rutland Sports Park, Pewit Golf Course, Victoria Park Leisure Centre, and Friesland Sports Centre in Sandiacre.

Conservative Councillor Mike Wallis is leading the project.

Conservative Councillor Mike Wallis is leading the project.

The executive heard from officers how the outsourcing process could work, and the key principles for any tender specification, and the terms of a report on which the final decision will be based.

The council is required to make cuts to its budget of around £2million over the next two years due to the continued reduction in grants from central government.

A market test on the benefits of outsourcing took place last year and suggested potential to make significant savings on management costs.

However, the Labour opposition group has criticised the plan, and what it sees as a drive to push it through without proper public scrutiny.

Councillor James Dawson said: “We are very concerned about the way this is being done. The information provided has been very sketchy, we have debated it once, meetings have been held behind closed doors and no one has asked the vast majority of Erewash residents and service users whether they want this.

“We understand the council is under pressure but no other options have been considered. We need to be innovative, but outsourcing is not always the best option.”

He added: “Some councils have pursued this kind of arrangement, then had to buy services back a few years later when something goes wrong.

“We need a long-term plan, and a proper economic development strategy to generate growth and income for the council - not just go full steam ahead to save a quick buck.”