Leisure centre privatisation plans go back for debate

St Nicholas Park.  08JUL103
St Nicholas Park. 08JUL103

Privatisation of leisure centre management in the district will be reconsidered after councillors questioned the future of pricing and the lack of public consultation.

Warwick District Council’s executive has agreed to look at bringing in a private management company to run its three sports facilities in Kenilworth, Leamington and Warwick.

But after a public petition against the plan attracted over 1,600 signatures and Labour councillors called for the service to be kept in public hands, the decision must be reconsidered before plans continue.

The council’s executive will now debate the original plans again - most likely in January - but the matter will not go before the full council.

Calling in the matter at the overview and scrutiny meeting on Tuesday, Jerry Weber said they simply wanted a “fair and open consultation”,

Mr Webber, who is chair of Warwick and Leamington Labour Party, said: “We started a petition two weeks ago and have over 1,600 signatures.

“People from all political persuasions have expressed a desire to see our leisure centres kept in public ownership.

“There has been no public consultation on this move. Although this is a discretionary service, it is a vital service.”

The decision received unanimous support from the Conservative cabinet when it was debated earlier this year.

But concern has since been raised by opponents over possible price rises, the impact on families and sports clubs, and conditions and pay for staff under a private management company.

Cllr Sue Gallagher, who is responsible for leisure centres, called for support to continue to progress the plan.

But Labour leader, John Barrott said: “People are asking why the council would invest money in the centres only to let a private contractor run them - especially when the current team managing them are performing so well. Why should the profits be allowed to flow out of the district?”

The council has agreed to invest £12m on improving facilities at Newbold Comyn and St Nicholas Park. A private company would then take over running them - as well as Abbey Fields and Castle Farm in Kenilworth - from April 2017.

The investment has support from all parties.