Controversial leisure centre plans set to be approved tonight

Controversial leisure centre plans set to be approved tonight

Simon Meechan

A controversial plan to transfer management of Royal Borough leisure centres to a private firm is set to be approved by the cabinet.

A petition submitted to the borough’s website accuses the Royal Borough of 'secrecy' for the way it has ploughed ahead with the plan to privatise leisure centre management.

It says there has been a lack of consultation with leisure centre users and that the borough has declined to disclose information about the move.

It has been signed by 294 people and asks the borough to consult with leisure centre users before making 'any further commitment' to outsource management.

A council report recommends that cabinet awards the 20-year contract to Parkwood Leisure when it meets tonight.

Under the new agreement the council will still own the buildings but rent out the centres to Parkwood, which will run them.

The Royal Borough report says: "The council remains only responsible for the maintenance and replacement of items relating to the building and the fabric of the building."

The council says it will save £2.6m by 2018/19 with the move. This, it says 'will allow for increased investment in other borough services'.

The report adds that 'core' swimming and gym charges will be capped against a retail price index.

The 270 staff at the Magnet, Windsor, Cox Green and Charters Leisure Centres will have their contracts transferred.

The deal will also include running the new centre at Furze Platt Senior School, which is due to open in May  2015.

Parkwood Leisure operates 84 leisure facilities around the country, employs 4,000 staff and has a turnover of £135m.

In March the borough announced that an independent trust was to manage the facilities. But the council then reopened the tendering process

One of the its trustees, David Hearne, said he stood down from his role in the trust when he found out the council asked the trust to bid again against private contractors.

David says he did not want to embark on a bidding war with private companies as this could lead to a poorer service.

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