Leisure and Golf lease goes ahead
9:23pm Thursday 17th July 2014 in By Mike Benke, @Michael_Benke
TEMPERATURES soared inside and outside the council chamber on Thursday night as the future of the town’s golf and leisure services were decided.
On the hottest day of the year so far, the council voted to lease out all the facilities to private companies but not before several hours of heated debate.
All of the leisure facilities will be leased out to Greenwich Leisure Limited, a social enterprise company which runs the Oasis as well as many others around the country.
Broome Manor and Highworth Golf will be leased out to Twigmarket.
The move is being put forward to save the council an annual subsidy of £1.5 million a year as well as to attract several million pounds of investment.
However, motions were put forward to alter several aspects of the proposal with Labour arguing that the golf facilities should not be leased out because of they turn a profit.
The public galleries was also full as residents who live in Old Town attended to see if the Croft Fields could be removed from the proposal, something else which Labour wanted to see.
Last month a 1,700 signature petition was handed to the council arguing that including the fields as part of the lease would put them at risk of being taken out of public use.
In the end the whole plan got through heralding in a new era for the town’s facilities.
The Labour Group broadly supported the leisure aspect of the facility, with the exception of the Haydon Centre and the inclusion of the Croft fields, but objected to other aspects.
Many Labour councillors were also angry that up-to-date accounts were made available to the shadow cabinet so they could make an informed decision.
Labour Group leader Jim Grant (Lab, Rodbourne Cheney) said: “We are supporting the transfer of the leisure facilities with a heavy heart. These facilities have been built over time and have led to Swindon being blessed with a raft of leisure facilities to encourage residents to be active in their local communities.
“However we do accept that in the council’s current financial circumstances we have little choice but to find ways to eradicate the £1.5m leisure subsidy.
“We are opposed to the leasing of Broome Manor and Highworth Golf Courses as it will not deliver value for money for Swindon Council-taxpayers.
“And we are opposed to any leasing of Croft Playing Fields and the car park because this administration has failed to give any reassurance that access to these areas for the local community will be preserved once they are transferred to a new provider.”
However, Coun Williams (Con, Shaw) the cabinet member for leisure said it was a good deal for Swindon, and the best available.
He said: “I am pleased we have finally got the green light to proceed with the facilities transfer and we have achieved our goal of finding a sustainable future for our leisure centres and golf courses
“If we hadn’t gone down this route we would almost certainly have been faced with the difficult decision of closing some of our facilities. By leasing our centres out, we not only keep them open to the public, but ensure they receive extra investment and benefit from the considerable expertise the new operators will bring to Swindon’s leisure offer.”
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