Trust ‘preferred option’ for Newport leisure services
6:57am Wednesday 22nd January 2014 in News
A REVIEW into alternative ways of providing Newport council leisure services has backed the idea of setting up a trust to run them.
But there have been complaints about the amount of time the review had to look into the matter, after similar concerns over a different probe into a joint venture for property services.
The policy review group, made up of three councillors from the learning, caring and leisure scrutiny committee, will deliver its findings to the committee at a meeting today before recommendations are made to cabinet. Leisure services include the running of leisure centres and Newport Centre.
No decision has yet been made, but if the move went ahead around 504 employees working for council leisure services could be transferred to the new service provider.
The review looked at creating a leisure trust to deliver the services, commissioning a private operator or an existing trust. A report says that the group, made up of councillors Chris Evans, Mark Spencer and Kevin Whitehead, concluded that the preferred option should be that of forming a new trust. The group thought this would deliver savings of £440,000 as a result of savings on business rates and possible VAT savings.
But it has concerns over the implications for staff of any transfer and called for detailed negotiations with staff and unions.
Questions were raised by group members over whether a trust would continue to reinvest in services and whether current standards would be retained in services and staff.
But the report added: “The group also expressed concerns regarding the limited time frame within which the policy review group investigation needed to be conducted, and the consequent inability to investigate all possible options for a new delivery model. This meant the conclusions of the investigation are therefore based on limited evidence as the timescales did not allow for a full member led scrutiny investigation.”
It called for changes to allow for more meaningful and thorough scrutiny in future. The group met twice, on January 6 and January 13.
The criticisms came after concerns over the time a group of councillors had to look at moving property services to a profit-making joint venture. In that review it was thought a more thorough investigation of other options could have been investigated if the group had longer to look at the issue.
The Argus revealed in September the council was considering handing services, including the Newport Centre and International Sports Village, to an outside body.
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