Ian Swithenbank, Chairperson
Grant Davey, Leader
Val Tyler, Deputy
Robert Arckless, Secretary
Northumberland NE61 2EF
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Labour calls for leisure ‘privatisation’ rethink
‘Super Trust’ model put forward by opposition.
Liberal Democrat plans to ‘soft market test’ leisure services across the county have been called into question after fears were expressed that the exercise was a prelude to ‘privatisation’ and a ‘fragmented service’. The council which is facing further cuts of £74m after its emergency budget in May is considering ‘outsourcing’ all services with leisure service provision believed to be the ‘pilot’.
Leisure services are currently delivered through a series of ‘trusts’ which are commissioned by the county council.
The largest groups, BVAL, who manage ex- Blyth Valley and Wansbeck Leisure Services and Leisure Tynedale who are based in the West of the County are Council formed trust companies who now face uncertainty because of the ‘secretive market testing’ approach chosen by the Liberal Democrat leadership.
Liberal Democrat Cabinet Member Neil Bradbury is piloting the proposals to save over £4m by providing incentives such as the ‘giveaway’ of the yet to be built £20m ‘state of the art’ Ashington Leisure Centre to private sector providers but his plans have already come under fire for being ‘secretive’ and ‘privatisation through the back door’ after Liberal leader Jeff Reid pledged to listen to put ‘wholesale privatisation on hold’ at 4 July meeting of the Full Council.
Labour group leader Grant Davey said
‘We want Councillor Bradbury to appear before the all party committee to discuss his proposals for leisure services especially his ‘giveaway of a £20m council asset in Ashington that hasn’t even been built yet. From the speculation about his privatisation proposals he needs to come clean and his leader should live up to his pledge to the council on 4 July to ‘pause his ill-conceived privatisation. The Labour group will be coming forward with outline plans to create a ‘super trust’ which would allow the current advantages to be maintained along with some efficiencies and a more flexible use of the council subsidy. We want to make sure that the council maintains its assets and we count staff in that category’.