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Council looks to outsource Burntwood Leisure Centre in cost-cutting …

Lichfield District Council’s cabinet will meet on Tuesday to discuss outsourcing the centre in High Street, Chasetown, as well as Friary Grange in Lichfield.

The net running costs for the two venues was £1,026,234 last year and the council have stated handing them over will reduce that, although bosses have vowed to ensure ‘leisure opportunities’ for each of the communities are maintained.

The council is set to put the contract for the centres out to tender in a process costing £100,000.

Details of what the move will mean for staff and services at each facility will not be known until a company is chosen to run them.

A report by the council’s director of place and community, Richard King, said: “A decision has been made to explore the outsourcing of the leisure centres. The alternative would be not to seek to outsource the leisure centres although they are a significant cost to the local authority.

“The net cost of running Burntwood and Friary Grange Leisure Centres in 2015/16 was £1,026,234.

“It is believed that the cost of the service can be reduced whilst still enabling participation in physical activity and access to leisure opportunities for our communities and therefore we have agreed to go to the market to test that this is the case.

Councillor Beth Fisher, who represents Chasetown, said: “We’ve been discussing it and there have been a few points raised. People worrying about the prices rising has probably been the biggest concern.

“We have had to look at saving money for the council but it is about finding a right balance providing a good service for people and achieving value for money.

“The council are not going to outsource to someone if it will worsen the services or hike up the prices.

“I know this has been looked at in depth so hopefully whatever decision is made will be the right one.”

Councillor Andy Smith, responsible for leisure and parks at the council, said: “Outsourcing provides an opportunity to bring on board the skills and experience of specialised leisure operators, which can help to reduce costs whilst maintaining, or even improving, the services customers receive. 

“Savings are possible because leisure operators or trusts often run a large portfolio of centres across the country, so they can achieve economies of scale we could never achieve as a district council. They can also often access sources of funding and benefits that councils cannot access.

“There’s lots of great examples where leisure centres have been outsourced and delivered really positive service improvements and increased participation rates.

“Whilst it’s far too early to confirm the outcome of the proposed outsourcing, we are working closely with all of our leisure team to ensure they are well informed and have opportunities to feed into the process.”

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Article source: http://www.expressandstar.com/news/politics/2016/10/29/council-looks-to-outsource-burntwood-leisure-centre-in-cost-cutting-move/

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