Council taxpayers in Swindon are subsidising the charity contracted to run the Health Hydro in Milton Street to the tune of more than half a million pounds.

That’s despite the company GLL, which trades as Better, being brought in by Swindon Borough Council to run the Milton Road baths, as well as other leisure centres, to free the public sector of the burden.

The decision to pay GLL £125,000 was taken in secret, by the council’s Conservative cabinet late last year, but will be discussed by the authority’s resources and corporate services overview and scrutiny committee on Monday.

The contract to run six leisure centres and two golf courses, including the Health Hydro was given to GLL in 2014. The council was making an operating loss of £1.4m a year on the facilities and had maintenance work costing £4.1m to do. GLL was handed £2m to cover that maintenance “on the basis there was no contract for services and GLL received no revenue payments towards running the centre.”

But GLL had said it might invoke a break clause after five years allowing it to stop running the hydro because of its operating loss.

Last year the cabinet agreed to provide £1.5m for maintenance work, and then later to pay GLL £125,000 a year for five years until 2024 to subsidise the operating costs. That’s a figure of £625,000 over the five years.

A report by cabinet member Keith Williams says work on the Railway Village Heritage Action Zone will “increase footfall in the area. The improvements to the Health Hydro resulting from the £1.5m funding should help place it on a more financially sustainable footing in the medium to long term.”

A borough council spokesman said: “The lease arrangement with GLL has seen the council save £1.3m of taxpayers’ money every year. In addition, Swindon’s leisure centres have benefitted from millions of pounds of investment since GLL took over running them.

"The money the council has saved has been spent on protecting the most vulnerable in our town, as 80 per cent of the budget for the coming financial year will be spent on caring for those most in need. We will continue to work with GLL and invest in our leisure and heritage assets.

“The Health Hydro is now a Grade II* listed building and despite everyone’s best efforts, it still requires a level of subsidy to keep it open until the necessary investment can be put in place to make it self-sufficient.

“Six months ago, the council decided it was better to keep working with GLL on our shared vision for Swindon, ensuring the Health Hydro has a sustainable, long-term future. It is a simple choice, the council steps in or the Health Hydro closes.”

Gerry Hannon, a leading member of the Friends of the Health Hydro said: “We hope that if the council is subsidising the operation then that would secure the long-term future and also allow the rest of it to be properly opened up, the small pool and the dry-side, the precursor of the NHS.”

But some councillors feel public money should not be used to prop up a company brought in to run leisure facilities, which doesn’t pay the council anything, and which agreed to do so without subsidy.

Jim Grant leader of the opposition Labour group said: “That the Tory council are basically subsiding a company to run its operation in Swindon beggars belief.

"Only last week they just passed a budget making £48m-worth of cuts over the next three years which will have a devastating impact of the lives of the elderly and vulnerable in this town.”

“As I have said before they more interested in supporting the private sector - who are more than capable of supporting themselves - than doing what a council should be doing - protecting the vulnerable and elderly and doing what people actually want their council to do.

“This money should being spent on Swindon’s real needs - a regenerated town centre; action to combat poor air quality which is killing Swindon residents and to solve issues like parking, anti social behaviour, traffic congestion, fixing potholes and damaged grass verges.

“It is breathtaking hypocrisy to claim last week that cuts had to be made due to continuing austerity and yet this week we find out that they are dishing out such huge sums to a private leisure company..Swindon really does deserve better than this.”

GLL has not responded to a request for comment.