COUNCIL chiefs are considering handing over the management of Mansfield’s leisure centres to a private company in a move that would take the day-to-day running of the facilities out of council hands.
Mansfield District Council issued Invitation to Tender documents to six leisure management companies last week,
They now have until 8th July to prepare formal bids on how they would manage all five of the council’s leisure centres - Meden Sports Centre, Oak Tree Leisure Centre, Rebecca Adlington Swimming Centre, River Maun Recreation Centre and Water Meadows Swimming and Fitness Complex.
A council spokesman said the authority would retain ownership of the buildings.
The council currently subsidises the cost of leisure centre operation, and considered that this could be reduced through a management arrangement.
But the plans have already caused some concern with the majority Labour Party - both in their potential consequences and in the way the process is being handled - with the former portfolio holder for environment taking a delegated decision to seek expressions of interest in July last year.
Labour leader Martin Lee said there had been ‘considerable surprise’ at the news of the tender going out and that the party considered the delegated decision as ‘undemocratic’.
“For such a fundamental decision, to almost slip it under the radar is not the way of going about things and certainly as a group we will be opposed to it,” he said.
Coun Lee said Labour’s fears include increases in the prices of using facilities at the leisure centres and potential job losses.
“We will put forward our own positive plans on how to run the leisure centres - it’s a service that should be kept with the remit of the council,” he added.
“We are realistic obviously. This is a difficult time for local authorities in terms of cuts etcetera, but if a private company believes that it can make a profit, which is their reason for being, the question is, why can’t Mansfield District Council, while at the same time providing much-cherished services.”
The companies have been invited to submit a formal tender are Serco, Parkwood Leisure, SLM - which operates Ashfield District Council’s leisure centres - Active Nation, Barnsley Premier League and Nuneaton and Bedworth Trust.
Mansfield council has put down a number of requirements in the contract that any successful bidder would have to meet - including a requirement to stipulate staffing levels and invest in repairs and maintenance, as well as for key prices for public use to remain at the same level and the protection of some key club activities and prices.
A project team set up by the authority will go through each submission and it is hoped that a recommendation on a preferred bidder will be made by October.
The decision on whether to transfer the management of the leisure facilities or keep it in-house will then be made by the council’s politicians.