Fear for fees and staff amid leisure centre privatisation plan

Gym equipment
Gym equipment

Pricing and opening hours for the district’s leisure centres are in question after councillors agreed to look at outsourcing the management as part of a £12million investment plan.

Warwick District Council’s executive has agreed to the major investment to improve Newbold Comyn and St Nicholas Park - with changes in Kenilworth’s Abbey Fields yet to be agreed.

The council will also look at bringing in a private company to take over running of all three sites from May 2017 in what has promoted concerns.

Labour’s shadow portfolio holder Cllr Kristie Naimo said: “We are concerned that a private contractor will increase membership fees and not provide adequate contracts for staff.

“The public may wonder why we would invest in improving our facilities only to hand most of the future profits over to a private contractor.

“The Conservative executive seem committed to privatising our leisure services whatever the numbers say. “

But council leader Andrew Mobbs, assured it was not “a council sell off”, saying: “The decision to seek an external partner was not taken lightly.

“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.

“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.”

Members have already approved a draft contract which stipulates managers must run a user forum to meet twice a year and report to the council.

The user agreement - yet to be finalised- also sets out minimum opening hours, regulations on club use and stating there can be no changes to the disability swimming club without council permission.

It also states that fees and charges must be based on pricing in the previous year.

Plans within the upgrades include new fitness suites and changing facilities, gym upgrades and a new sports hall to keep the Leamington and Warwick centres in use over the next 30 years.