Author Topic: Your Leisure is going to be put outside the council - what does it mean to you?  (Read 8982 times)

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Offline Richard Symonds

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My point being, that even the most ardent supporter of the Swindon Conservatives 'Greek Fire Sale' economic policies will at some point realise that they are still paying council tax at its highest level but seeing the lowest level of municipal provision ever.

It could be that money may be saved as there will be no need of a political wossaname for leisure - surely  :-\

or any Councillors to discuss it muck!!
All my posts are my own opinion and do not represent any political organization or group

Offline Mickraker

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or any Councillors to discuss it muck!!

You could be right   :-\
My non aggresive posts are my own opinion and represent me, myself and I only!

Offline Muggins

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And those that belonged to SBC were supposed to make up the difference for those who could not afford to pay for private gyms.  In fact they were not built for 'exercise' as such, but to provide swimming opportunities, you got the exercise walking to them and at work.

And how is that going to be achieved when it is 'privatized' M?

And in Privatizing I mean not run by the Council M!

That was my point, it won't be achieved, it will end!  they will in effect become  another private gym.

And those that belonged to SBC were supposed to make up the difference for those who could not afford to pay for private gyms.  In fact they were not built for 'exercise' as such, but to provide swimming opportunities, you got the exercise walking to them and at work.

The problem is fitness is moving away from competative sports into a type of solo direct excercise. People used to book a 5 a side pitch or a tennis court to get fit, they now put on their ipod and get on a tread mill or exercise bike and maybe lift a few weights.

Also you can't use the pool at the link most of the time, unless you are either under 16 and part of a swimming club, mother and a toddler, can't swim, etc. Private gyms that have pools open them to all members all of the time.

When I was a Leisure Passport Holder, I used to have to go to the link to weight train, then the oasis to have a swim and then had I wanted a Sauna or Steam Room I would have had to go to Milton Road, though I would have to check my calendar as there were men only and lady only nights. (I was advised not to even do the men only nights). They just can't compete with the modern all access one stop shop gyms that are being custom built today(They are even building their own sports halls now such as Next Generation and David LLoyds.)

The days of the Oasis and Link as fitness hubs are well over and they need to change their strategy to deal with the modern world. Either the council has to take the hit, or they have to reduce the size of the facilities.  Shifting them on will only move the problem to someone else, who will in the end close parts of these places and run different operations out of them anyway.



Exactly - although there are still people who cannot afford the private gym prices, even if they are 'better'.


I don't hear anyone talking about a reduction in my council tax bill yet.....


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The object of the cut backs are not to reduce your community charge but to try and not charge you more in the next budget, an unpopular move with the payers and the politician - the former want to keep getting more for less and the latter want to get elected back in. And so the spiral of sell offs and cutbacks continue. 

It's not only the long term unemployed that want something for nothing.
Oi! Listen mush. Old eyes, remember? I’ve been around the block a few times. More than a few. They’ve knocked down the blocks I’ve been around and rebuilt them as bigger blocks. Super blocks. And I’ve been round them as well.  The Doctor (Night Terrors)

Offline Richard Symonds

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I am going to cut and paste one of the best threads I have read on the Adver for a long long time and the comments encapsulate everything that is being said across the Borough.  The question that must be asked is why the 'Young Guns' are so intent on proceeding with this privatization with such indecent haste and lack of consultation?

http://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/10708119.Who_will_run_our_leisure_centres_/

Who will Run Our Leisure Centres?

9:10am Tuesday 1st October 2013 in News

Coun Keith Williams

THE COUNCIL is set to relinquish control of all the town’s leisure centres and golf courses by next year under plans being drawn up.

An advert will soon be put out inviting organisations to express an interest in taking over the venues, although not gain overall ownership.

The sites up for lease are Broome Manor, Highworth and Moredon golf facilities and Croft Sports Centre, Delta Tennis Centre, Dorcan Recreation Complex, Haydon Centre, Health Hydro and the Link Centre.

Ideally the council are looking for one organisation to take over all of them but the golf facilities and leisure centres could be transferred as two separate packages.

Talks are also ongoing to hand over control the Highworth Recreation Centre although this will be done independently of the other venues.

A 99-year-lease is being offered and the council will be seeking to take some rent from the successful bidder.

The offer is being made as part of the Leisure and Culture Change Programme which aims to reduce the costs of the towns museums, arts and sports facilities while keeping them accessible to the public.


As it stands it is understood the council have forecast a loss of £1.5m on the leisure centres and golf courses this financial year.

On top on that, a council report shows there are almost £6m worth of repairs on the sites, with nearly £1m being declared urgent.

Coun Keith Williams (Con, Shaw) , Cabinet Member for Highways Strategic Transport and Leisure, said: “This is something which many other local authorities have done with great success. It is just not sustainable to keep everything as it is now.

“If we transfer control we can keep the facilities without the cost and the money saved can be put towards children’s and vulnerable adult services which is our biggest expenditure.”

The council’s main priority is to maintain the current level of facilities although it cannot be guaranteed.

Coun Williams said: “We will be speaking to those groups who are interested and keeping services at their current level will be the biggest factor we consider.”

The council may also release a one-off fund of £3m to the successful organisation to go towards the group.

It is believed the high maintenance costs could act as a deterrent to groups so it is hoped the money, which can the council can borrow at a preferential rate, will sweeten any deal.

In May, a test was carried out to gauge interest in the market for taking over the facilities and it received a favourable response, with more than 20 groups, including national companies, non profit making organisations and comunity groups, expressing an interest.

However, many of the community groups were only interested in taking over one of the leisure centres. It was not considered viable to lease the venues individually as it would make it harder to transfer all of them, thereby excluding the community groups.

Coun Williams said: “When the changes happen people may see a change in uniform but hopefully not a lot else.”

Another issue raised in the exercise was the economic viability of Moredon Golf facility as several of the parties interviewed said it had very little use.

In a cabinet report, the possibility of closing the course and looking for other uses for the site was raised but Coun Williams said the cost of running it was low and while it remained on the leisure portfolio he could not foresee it being used for a different purpose.

Around £2m has recently been spent making-over the Link Centre in West Swindon, which has included replacing the roof, a major refurbishment of the swimming pool and the recent work to install a new ice pad.

Coun Williams said: “Some of the work, such as to the ice rink was vital, and had to be done.

“It is very much like selling a house and wanting it to look its best. As an authority we spend more on leisure than many others.

“We have credit for having some of the best facilities in the region.”

When any transfer is made, all staff will be move across to the new organisation in charge but there maybe job cuts if stream-lining is needed.

It is hoped all applications for control will be in by the end of the year with the take-over being completed in the second quarter of 2014.

Comments (28)
 
9:24am Tue 1 Oct 13
Davey Gravey says...

Yet another disgrace. They won't be happy until there is nothing left to privatize or sell.
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9:27am Tue 1 Oct 13
dc the 2nd says...

9 holes at highworth £14, (Twelve oaks £11, Bassett Downs £11)....get rid.
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9:47am Tue 1 Oct 13
Wildwestener says...

Nothing wrong with this if it secures the services and there is something in contracts about pricing. That said, personally, I don't think incurring a loss of £1.5m a year for leisure centres is that big. It's one of the few things that the Council does that potentially benefits all Council Tax payers as opposed to them (those who pay Council Tax) having to pay for services who those who can't or don't pay for them which seems to be an ever increasing element of our COuncil Tax payments.
With regard to the proposal, as long as the service provision is guaranteed, then this could be a good thing.
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10:25am Tue 1 Oct 13
jackdawson says...

Considering that Swindon Councillors seem to have less and less to do as they sell off everything / have it run by private companies it would be a good idea if council members could be 'rationalised' to compensate. I.e. less of them, less wages, less expenses and less time in the chamber. If they don't have to run leisure and all the other things they are outsourcing Swindon won't need so many of them will they. I thought the idea of a council providing leisure services was so that you could have a say in how leisure services are provided and/or vote for the way you would like them to be handled. This plan cuts democracy and accountability out of leisure provision in Swindon so what's the point in such a big council now!
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10:58am Tue 1 Oct 13
Russell Holland says...

I understand the concerns about this however given the state of the public sector finances it does mean that very difficult decisions have to be made in order to balance the budget. The reality is that for too long the public sector has been spending more money than it makes and this is just not sustainable. We can see in Greece what happens when debt gets out of control. Politicians can often devote disproportionate time to allocating blame for the problems but the reality whichever Government is formed in 2015 they both face the same pressure to find savings and do things differently. So the debate about what the public sector can afford to provide is becoming even more significant. In Swindon most of the money is spent on adult and children's services, so services for vulnerable people are rightly prioritised. I do not believe that most people in Swindon would be prepared to support significant Council tax increases in order to keep things the way that they are. But it does mean that most people do not directly receive services for what they pay. The sad reality of the national debt is that we will continue to pay the same amount of taxes for the same or slightly reduced services. In the case of leisure services it is likely that without Council services the market would step in to provide services.

In respect of Councillors there are 57 Councillors now instead of 59. I take the view, as do many Councillors, that the allowance is generous enough to cover expenses so many Councillors do not claim any expenses at all.
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11:16am Tue 1 Oct 13
A.Baron-Cohen says...

It is up to individuals to pay for their sport and entertainment
Leisure Parks and centres must be sold off and run privately.
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11:21am Tue 1 Oct 13
stratton man says...

Perhaps Cllr Holland can explain how he has managed to turn the surplus of c10 million he inherited from the Labour administration into the debt of c100 million the Borough now has.This Conservative administration has spent like a drunken sailor on vanity projects of no benefit to the town.
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11:38am Tue 1 Oct 13
jackdawson says...

Russell Holland wrote:
I understand the concerns about this however given the state of the public sector finances it does mean that very difficult decisions have to be made in order to balance the budget. The reality is that for too long the public sector has been spending more money than it makes and this is just not sustainable. We can see in Greece what happens when debt gets out of control. Politicians can often devote disproportionate time to allocating blame for the problems but the reality whichever Government is formed in 2015 they both face the same pressure to find savings and do things differently. So the debate about what the public sector can afford to provide is becoming even more significant. In Swindon most of the money is spent on adult and children's services, so services for vulnerable people are rightly prioritised. I do not believe that most people in Swindon would be prepared to support significant Council tax increases in order to keep things the way that they are. But it does mean that most people do not directly receive services for what they pay. The sad reality of the national debt is that we will continue to pay the same amount of taxes for the same or slightly reduced services. In the case of leisure services it is likely that without Council services the market would step in to provide services.

In respect of Councillors there are 57 Councillors now instead of 59. I take the view, as do many Councillors, that the allowance is generous enough to cover expenses so many Councillors do not claim any expenses at all.
It just seems like jumping in at the deep end. The administration has a 1 seat majority so can hadly say they represent everybody in Swindon and this issue removes the right of the whole town to democratically decide on how leisure services are to be run in the future. It would be understandable to allow a single leisure centre to have its management run privately on a trial basis of say several years so that the scheme can be reviewed and if sucessful extended. However, to remove every leisure service from council control, in one go for 99 years, with no way of going back sounds extremely foolhardy to me. At least suggest this plan in your manifesto before the next council elections so the people can decide whether to vote for it and go ahead with it after a vote rather than ploughing it through with a 1 seat majority!
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11:46am Tue 1 Oct 13
swindoniaaa says...

Is this of any genuine surprise to anyone?? With the debts that have been run up by this council, along with the disgusting amounts of money wasted on white elephants (wifi, anyone?), they appear to be shirking more and more. But of course, if they leave enough of a gap between releasing the news to the public, it doesn't sound so bad.
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11:59am Tue 1 Oct 13
jackdawson says...

I won't keep blabbing on but as a Swindon born like my parents and grandparents - these services and buildings were paid for by their taxes over many decades. I think Swindon people deserve a bit more of a say over whether they just get pawned off for the next 99 years!
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12:05pm Tue 1 Oct 13
Oliver_Donachie says...

Conservatives are working to not raise council tax (again) this year and that required a stark financial consideration.

We could either:

Subsidize things like golf courses and football pitches
OR
Ensure that the bill for meeting the adult social care / vulnerable children expense was met.

We went with the later which I am thankful for. Our commitment to protecting the most vulnerable in Swindon remains clear and we will do so whilst holding down council tax as much as possible (0% rise for three years)

I believe that by operating in this manner it allows us to give the electorate a clear decision between the Conservatives who are a party of low taxation versus the Labour party with its alternative approach which in the past included raising council tax by more than 40% in less than 36 months.

I also believe that the vast majority of voters in Swindon care more about actions than words hence them returning Conservatives to power in many recent elections, we have shown our commitment to operating a prudent budget that offers the people of Swindon the most value at the least cost to them.
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12:24pm Tue 1 Oct 13
Russell Holland says...

jackdawson - I understand what you are saying and as someone who was born in Swindon myself going on the domebusters and iceskating at the link form part of my childhood so I had the same reaction as you. But at the moment it is the Council's responsibility to balance the budget. It is difficult. So that means we have to question everything we provide or we can advocate a significant increase in tax. To maintain the leisure service as it is would require a Council tax increase of 1.5 to 2%. I don't think this is something most residents would be prepared to pay. Ultimately a private run leisure services means that individuals can choose whether or not they wish to use and pay for the services they receive.

The debt which Swindon Borough Council has was largely due to investment in new schools (keep in mind when the Conservative took over that Labour had left education one of the worst services in the entire country) and the Wichelstowe development which we are hoping will eventually bring a return to the Council.

Historically Swindon has had one of the lower levels of Council tax and lower levels of government funding by comparison to other Councils.
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12:26pm Tue 1 Oct 13
jackdawson says...

Oliver_Donachie wrote:
Conservatives are working to not raise council tax (again) this year and that required a stark financial consideration.

We could either:

Subsidize things like golf courses and football pitches
OR
Ensure that the bill for meeting the adult social care / vulnerable children expense was met.

We went with the later which I am thankful for. Our commitment to protecting the most vulnerable in Swindon remains clear and we will do so whilst holding down council tax as much as possible (0% rise for three years)

I believe that by operating in this manner it allows us to give the electorate a clear decision between the Conservatives who are a party of low taxation versus the Labour party with its alternative approach which in the past included raising council tax by more than 40% in less than 36 months.

I also believe that the vast majority of voters in Swindon care more about actions than words hence them returning Conservatives to power in many recent elections, we have shown our commitment to operating a prudent budget that offers the people of Swindon the most value at the least cost to them.
I'm sorry but I simply don't believe a word you say anymore. The whole town has been like a building site for goodness knows how long as private company after private company is given millions to hold meetings and basically produce bits of paper and fancy websites about how to regenerate Swindon and only very very recently has there been any movement on that. Then there was this hairbrained scheme to roll out council-owned wifi which was a waste of money and didn't work. Councils have very little say in reality on how much council tax they can charge as its pretty much decided nationally so don't try political point scoring and in any case if you end up having to pay more to use privately run services then it really makes no difference to the average jo if they lose that money in tax or paying for private services. The fact that you are comparing the budget for leisure with an emotive subject just shows you can't justify this any other way and the two should not be mentioned in the same breath. Obviously Adult Social Care and childrens services need to be paid for. They always have been in the past and so have leisure services. What's changed. Can't you manage the budget responibly. Obviously not. Other councils seem to manage, even in the current climate. This council is a farce.
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12:32pm Tue 1 Oct 13
jackdawson says...

Russell Holland wrote:
jackdawson - I understand what you are saying and as someone who was born in Swindon myself going on the domebusters and iceskating at the link form part of my childhood so I had the same reaction as you. But at the moment it is the Council's responsibility to balance the budget. It is difficult. So that means we have to question everything we provide or we can advocate a significant increase in tax. To maintain the leisure service as it is would require a Council tax increase of 1.5 to 2%. I don't think this is something most residents would be prepared to pay. Ultimately a private run leisure services means that individuals can choose whether or not they wish to use and pay for the services they receive.

The debt which Swindon Borough Council has was largely due to investment in new schools (keep in mind when the Conservative took over that Labour had left education one of the worst services in the entire country) and the Wichelstowe development which we are hoping will eventually bring a return to the Council.

Historically Swindon has had one of the lower levels of Council tax and lower levels of government funding by comparison to other Councils.
So becasue you have paid for an extrension of Swindon you now have to cut services for Swindon. Again. Can't you manage the budget responsibly.
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12:36pm Tue 1 Oct 13
Russell Holland says...

Jack - what has changed is that because more people are living for longer the cost of caring for older people has significantly increased and by law the Council must provide services for them. In addition there are increased pressures on children's services because of legal changes to children services. So this means that there is less money for other things.

In addition Councils are seeing their grants cut by the central government who nationally are having to fact the national deficit and national debt.

On the town centre the big success was the central library but it is right that the other regeneration projects stalled because of the recession. But Swindon town centre still compares favourably to other towns in terms of footfall. People come from across the country to visit the outlet village. The reintroduction of the town centre market is also a good thing.

I agree with you that whether someone pays more through tax or through using services both represent a rising cost but the difference through paying direct for the service is only those who use it pay more. It is difficult but again, unless people want to pay more Council tax we are restricted in what we can do with the money that we have.
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12:39pm Tue 1 Oct 13
The Artist formally known as Grumpy Old Man says...

I used to use the council provided leisure centres. Having given up on them due to the rude staff and poor quality facilities, I now go to a private gym/pool which is costing me less money per month while providing superior facilities and more choice. Just saying.
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12:42pm Tue 1 Oct 13
Russell Holland says...

We are hoping that the money borrowed for Wichelstowe will be recovered so it is not possible to reach a definite conclusion on the financial impact at this time. Swindon's borrowing compares favourably to other Councils. If we had not borrowed to invest in the schools then we would not have good schools, the consequence of borrowing is that money goes on paying the interest but the situation we are facing in Swindon is not primarily due to the money the Council has borrowed it is due to demographics and the national deficit and national debt.

No one is particularly happy about what is happening to local government finance but the reality is what it is. We can have a political debate about who is blame (nationally and/or locally) but it won't change the facts. The reality is that at this time the public sector has to face up to financial realities and that is why difficult decisions need to be made.
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12:50pm Tue 1 Oct 13
The Artist formally known as Grumpy Old Man says...

Russell Holland wrote:
We are hoping that the money borrowed for Wichelstowe will be recovered so it is not possible to reach a definite conclusion on the financial impact at this time. Swindon's borrowing compares favourably to other Councils. If we had not borrowed to invest in the schools then we would not have good schools, the consequence of borrowing is that money goes on paying the interest but the situation we are facing in Swindon is not primarily due to the money the Council has borrowed it is due to demographics and the national deficit and national debt.

No one is particularly happy about what is happening to local government finance but the reality is what it is. We can have a political debate about who is blame (nationally and/or locally) but it won't change the facts. The reality is that at this time the public sector has to face up to financial realities and that is why difficult decisions need to be made.
Dumb question then - why are Swindon Council paying for schools? Seeing as it is developers who are causing the pressure on school places by building thousands of new family homes, I'd have thought the 106 agreements paid by them should be at least partially covering the costs involved?
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12:50pm Tue 1 Oct 13
Oliver_Donachie says...

jackdawson , I am sympathetic to a lot of what you say and I would like to respond to some of the point you make.

Regeneration of town center has largely been dictated by investment confidence by those companies taking on the new properties, the council can offer incentives but no "for profit" organisation is going to build something to lose money, 2013 is different from 2008 and we are starting to see a return of confidence and in turn an acceleration in the building programs. You can see the real effect in Swindon town center.

It is not an emotive point to see leisure and adult social care as linked, the reality of the situation is that's exactly how it appears on the balance sheet and it really does come down to paying one of the other

Why is this the case?

Because on a 0% council tax increase we are actually talking about roughly a -10% real world figure, the same costs that effect your life like fuel , water and electricity are exactly the same for a council. We are tasked with absorbing that inflation if we make the commitment to another year of 0% council tax increase, to be as clear as possible we are tasked to doing more and more with less and less. That is the direct consequence of 0% tax rises.

I appreciate you may feel the concern that the Conservative Councillors control all these decision directly, we are responsible for the final decision but like any multi million pound entity we are under scrutiny from external auditors, I was privileged to sit in that scrutiny session recently and within their subjective view we are on track.

I can only repeat my key point, I believe the vast silent majority of Swindon understands that having a 0% increase in council tax has a "cost" attached to that, we are doing as much as we can, as prudently as we can, to absorb that cost so that the monthly fee we pay is as low as it can possibly be for as long as possible whilst we stand by our firm commitment to protecting vulnerable children and adults.
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12:56pm Tue 1 Oct 13
jackdawson says...

Russell Holland wrote:
Jack - what has changed is that because more people are living for longer the cost of caring for older people has significantly increased and by law the Council must provide services for them. In addition there are increased pressures on children's services because of legal changes to children services. So this means that there is less money for other things.

In addition Councils are seeing their grants cut by the central government who nationally are having to fact the national deficit and national debt.

On the town centre the big success was the central library but it is right that the other regeneration projects stalled because of the recession. But Swindon town centre still compares favourably to other towns in terms of footfall. People come from across the country to visit the outlet village. The reintroduction of the town centre market is also a good thing.

I agree with you that whether someone pays more through tax or through using services both represent a rising cost but the difference through paying direct for the service is only those who use it pay more. It is difficult but again, unless people want to pay more Council tax we are restricted in what we can do with the money that we have.
For a minute I'll accept all your aguments. However, I am still left with questions about why ALL the services have to go at once without any backstop such as in the plans for the Oasis. History is littered with failed privatisations (although there are also postive ones too and I'm sure most people are looking forward to an improved Oasis - if it works). It is a responsible council that would look forward towards any potential pitfalls and put in place safeguards for the future. I don't understand why this hasn't been done and I don't understand why there are no plans to put safeguards in place for a 99 year lease on running leisure services. You talk about Socail Services. A couple of years ago the council outsourced a lot of social care - did this save Swindon money, or is it the case that it hasn't worked and now you are having to cut other services.
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1:01pm Tue 1 Oct 13
stratton man says...

interesting comments from Oliver Donachie . Does Tim Dunroaming share his views.
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1:09pm Tue 1 Oct 13
The Artist formally known as Grumpy Old Man says...

jackdawson wrote:
Russell Holland wrote:
Jack - what has changed is that because more people are living for longer the cost of caring for older people has significantly increased and by law the Council must provide services for them. In addition there are increased pressures on children's services because of legal changes to children services. So this means that there is less money for other things.

In addition Councils are seeing their grants cut by the central government who nationally are having to fact the national deficit and national debt.

On the town centre the big success was the central library but it is right that the other regeneration projects stalled because of the recession. But Swindon town centre still compares favourably to other towns in terms of footfall. People come from across the country to visit the outlet village. The reintroduction of the town centre market is also a good thing.

I agree with you that whether someone pays more through tax or through using services both represent a rising cost but the difference through paying direct for the service is only those who use it pay more. It is difficult but again, unless people want to pay more Council tax we are restricted in what we can do with the money that we have.
For a minute I'll accept all your aguments. However, I am still left with questions about why ALL the services have to go at once without any backstop such as in the plans for the Oasis. History is littered with failed privatisations (although there are also postive ones too and I'm sure most people are looking forward to an improved Oasis - if it works). It is a responsible council that would look forward towards any potential pitfalls and put in place safeguards for the future. I don't understand why this hasn't been done and I don't understand why there are no plans to put safeguards in place for a 99 year lease on running leisure services. You talk about Socail Services. A couple of years ago the council outsourced a lot of social care - did this save Swindon money, or is it the case that it hasn't worked and now you are having to cut other services.
How do you know they won't put in place "safeguards"? They haven't done it yet!
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1:43pm Tue 1 Oct 13
Bobfm , says...

I would vote for jack Dawson! Speaks more sense than Russell Holland or the idiotic Tim Newroman, that's for **** sure
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1:45pm Tue 1 Oct 13
house on the hill says...

"""Oliver_Donachie wrote:
Conservatives are working to not raise council tax (again) this year and that required a stark financial consideration.""""

Well you could start by running a cost effective, efficient, value for money Council for a start. Having worked there far longer than i would have chosen, it never ceased to amaze me how much overpaid deadwood there is there, how many "managers" on £35k+ a year who had very little responsibility and only managed 3 or 4 people, I think the last figures quoted were 133 managers on £50k+ out of a workforce of 1500 or 1 in 13, seriously? The attitudes are just complacent and uncaring (as they would be in any monopoly with a guaranteed customer base and income) and their working practices havent changed since the 80's when money was sloshing around. You could cut 1/3 of the staff, providing you picked the right ones and actually be more efficient as the lazy and useless make so many mistakes for the few good ones to clear up and apologise for. Around 80% of council staff wouldn't last more than a month in the private sector, but the problem is the ones with the power to change are the ones most needed to be got rid of so that will never happen!
All council staff will tell you that the "partnerships" cause more cost and hassle than they save, the whole place is a shambles and could save millions if run properly, but I dont think anyone will be holding their breath.
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7:18pm Tue 1 Oct 13
Russell Holland says...

Jack - fair comments the details of the leisure options appraisal are in the Cabinet papers see http://ww5.swindon.g
ov.uk/moderngov/ieLi
stMeetings.aspx?CId=
285&Year=0

On adult social care sequel has been a success http://www.swindonad
vertiser.co.uk/news/
10011153.Care_enterp
rise_in_line_for_top
_awards/

http://www.swindonad
vertiser.co.uk/leisu
re/specials/10076606
.The_plaudits_are_flooding_in/

the issue here is the increase in demand for services - so by changing the way it has provided services the Council has been in a better position to respond to the rising demand but the increased costs come from an increased demand.

House- I am not saying that everything is perfect at the Council or that things can't improve but I do believe that overall given our lower levels of funding that we do a good job. Since 2004 the Council has consistently got good inspections and kept Council tax at lower levels.

Stratton man - interesting comments from you - does anyone called Mike share your views?
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8:27pm Tue 1 Oct 13
house on the hill says...

Russell, as a Councillor you will only be shown what they want you to see. As i said when you covered housing, go and actually be a housing officer for 6 months and your attitude will change greatly as you get frustrated at those around you who like a nice easy life and have a "the staff come first" approach to their job. I am sorry but you know absolutely nothing about what really goes on or rather doesn't. Out of the 200 or so staff i worked with there were only about a dozen that i would want working for me if i had a business and some who i wouldnt employ if they paid me they were so useless or such a disruptive influence or just always off sick! Your working practices are so wasteful and non productive, most wouldnt know real customer focused, value for money going the extra mile service if it bit them on the backside. but the most galling thing is that it is our money and its solvable. I realise as a barrister and a councillor you are trained to tell people what you want them to hear but all i am hearing is the stuff that comes out of the back end of a male cow,
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3:40pm Wed 2 Oct 13
Russell Holland says...

House I am not saying everything is perfect or we can be complacent but overall I think taking into account our resources we do a good job.

The independent inspections and awards show improvement. The statistics on town centre footfall compare favourably.

Every organisation has good and not so good employees. On housing we have active tenant groups who raise issues and tenant satisfaction surveys show good results. Our rent collection levels are good as well.

If you have specific points you would like to raise please feel free to e-mail me.
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4:34pm Wed 2 Oct 13
awareness says...

Coun Williams said: “When the changes happen people may see a change in uniform but hopefully not a lot else.”

Not entirely true, Coun Williams, when part of the planned agreements could contain the withdrawal of free shower facilities for the most vulnerable people in our community. Surely any potential proprietor of the leisure centres would have to be obligated to continue to supply the community with services like that. (Statistically, currently 20 free showers per month at a cost to the centres of ca £20 per annum - peanuts if you consider the consequences of withdrawing the service without replacement options). If those services cannot be continued, what else is going to go to make contracts more palatable and to attract bidders? School swimming sessions? Youth football?
Leisure centres are not only about fit people who should pay if they want to be a member, they CAN fulfil a service to the wider community - and they MUST be allowed to continue to do so, even if a private company takes over the service.
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I am pleased to see that Russell and Ollive debate but do the Swindon people realize that once this is actioned it is for the life of the lease, a mere 99 years, and unless the lessee breaks it, that is it and there is absolutely nothing that can be done about it.  we are then in the complete control of the private sector and have a hobson's choice as to whether we use it or not! 

Now you have to ask yourself with this previously strong mitigation for the existence of a Council removed for what do they exist to provide now?

It certainly isn't entertainment is it, and I was not thinking of leisure centres?

When this Administration has been one of the most free spending in the history of Swindon what on earth do they to have to show to justify it?

I am looking forward to Russell Holland's first budget and just wonder what else will be cut to pay for ten years of Conservative Spend Spend Spend?

Now, had I wrote the name Labour instead of Conservative I would be able to understand this better but now I need to sit down and have a drink to come to terms with the topsy turvy world in which we now live and which I find so difficult to justify.
All my posts are my own opinion and do not represent any political organization or group

Offline Muggins

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Maybe there is a misunderstanding about 'selling ' these service off, it looks to me more like they would like a consortium of volunteer sportsmen/people to come forward, form an organisation to take over the management.  I.e. there would be no management costs to the borough and volunteers would take up the slack.

This way it's not gone forever, and in the hands of 'the people',  lets face it there must be among the present users, people with transferable skills that like their sport enough to do it and do it well.

Again, it's about doing a bit of giving and not taking all the time.   

A clever group would soon have the places paying/cutting even and be able to employ staff to manage on their behalf on a daily basis.
Oi! Listen mush. Old eyes, remember? I’ve been around the block a few times. More than a few. They’ve knocked down the blocks I’ve been around and rebuilt them as bigger blocks. Super blocks. And I’ve been round them as well.  The Doctor (Night Terrors)

Offline Tobes

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I've got to say, there's an awful lot of doom mongering hypocrisy about the fate of these facilities. If money were no option, of course the only moral path would be to invest and improve them. But there isn't, so there won't be.

Just a thought, but how many of those bleating most loudly about proposed cuts in funding are even regular, dedicated users of these facilities?

The fact remains that as excellent as many are, they are also under used by a largely apathetic population. 'Use it or lose it' remains a truism.

Like Mugs says, there is lots of scope for dedicated volunteers to take up some of the slack. Its unfortunate that other ingrates are likely to benefit off of the hard work of these people, but bless them for doing it.

The real challenge will be to see that the transfers happen openly and fairly. the current administration hasn't exactly covered itself with confidence inspiring glory when it comes to convincing us that deals get done with the best candidates, rather than mates in smoke filled rooms.

No point reading the reams of adver comments on this one - its the usual tit-for-tat 'he said, she said' politically tribal bullshit and point scoring.
I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it - [attributed to] Voltaire... 'Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessita' - William of Occam.... 'You have a right to feel offended, but just cos you are offended doesn't mean you are right'

Offline Richard Symonds

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Maybe there is a misunderstanding about 'selling ' these service off, it looks to me more like they would like a consortium of volunteer sportsmen/people to come forward, form an organisation to take over the management.  I.e. there would be no management costs to the borough and volunteers would take up the slack.

This way it's not gone forever, and in the hands of 'the people',  lets face it there must be among the present users, people with transferable skills that like their sport enough to do it and do it well.

Again, it's about doing a bit of giving and not taking all the time.   

A clever group would soon have the places paying/cutting even and be able to employ staff to manage on their behalf on a daily basis.

If it is to be achieved this way why talk of a 99 year lease M?

It can't be both!!
All my posts are my own opinion and do not represent any political organization or group

Offline Richard Symonds

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No point reading the reams of adver comments on this one - its the usual tit-for-tat 'he said, she said' politically tribal bullshit and point scoring.

and there was I believing that it was significantly better than usual!!
All my posts are my own opinion and do not represent any political organization or group

Offline Muggins

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Maybe there is a misunderstanding about 'selling ' these service off, it looks to me more like they would like a consortium of volunteer sportsmen/people to come forward, form an organisation to take over the management.  I.e. there would be no management costs to the borough and volunteers would take up the slack.

This way it's not gone forever, and in the hands of 'the people',  lets face it there must be among the present users, people with transferable skills that like their sport enough to do it and do it well.

Again, it's about doing a bit of giving and not taking all the time.   

A clever group would soon have the places paying/cutting even and be able to employ staff to manage on their behalf on a daily basis.

If it is to be achieved this way why talk of a 99 year lease M?

It can't be both!!

True Richard, that length of lease might be ill advised, however along with the lease, there should be a service level agreement.  The length of lease may reflect in what the management group can/can't do. 
Maybe the 99 year lease will only come into play if the management that comes forward can prove itself.

Let's hope they don't get into any long term, do as you please, leases, times and governments change so quickly.

If I could get a flipping account set up on the Adver I could put a few things straight on there.  It's obvious that most people can only think in terms of big business and vast profits and not service to the community.

Oi! Listen mush. Old eyes, remember? I’ve been around the block a few times. More than a few. They’ve knocked down the blocks I’ve been around and rebuilt them as bigger blocks. Super blocks. And I’ve been round them as well.  The Doctor (Night Terrors)

Offline Spunkymonkey

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The problem is Kiss Gym (Formally Nationwide Building Society), David LLoyds(Formally Motorola Carpark), Next Geneation(Formally a school field?) Fitness First West Swindon (Formally Nissan Garage) Fitness First East Swindon(Formally Audi VW Garage) DW Fitness (Formally a farmers field) 24 Hour Gym(formally waste land?) Not to mention the gyms at the holiday inn and devere all built from the 90's onwards.

These gyms also have to compete with each other and still manage to make a profit. SBC's facilities made a loss, so what are they doing wrong?

SBC aren't planning to close the facilities. They plan on leasing them out. Why does SBC think the private sector can do a better job?

Offline Spunkymonkey

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The current administration seem reluctant to provide services. Everything has to be treated as a business, but councils are very poor at running businesses. If there is a profit to be made, then let the private sector provide it.

The council's job is to provide free or subsidised services that the private sector can't provide. That is why we pay taxes. If every service was profitable there would be no need for taxes.

If people want to pay £60 per month for plush facilities at David Lloyd that is fine, but what about those on low incomes. I am happy for council leisure centres to run at a loss (prefer to use the term subsidised though) providing that entrance fees are low and available to all. 

The government want people to lead healthy lifestyles in order to reduce the burden on the NHS, but the local authority doesn't want to subsidise exercise. It is the same with transport. Central government want to encourage sustainable travel choices, but local government are cutting bus services. They doesn't appear to be any consistency between central and local government policy.

If SBC leases out the leisure centres will they end up paying to rent them back, ie. will schools end up paying more to use the former council facilities?

I am also opposed to long 99 year leases. Why should the current administration with it's tiny majority (1 seat) be allowed to make a decision that a future administration could not reverse?

Offline bobwright

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I am not really clear whether the content of the thread is about the consultation, how to use taxes in support of leisure, mismanagement by the council or whether it should be a public or private service, perhaps it is all. I do know once again misinformation is leading the thread. Apart from Milton Road baths which has a present and future need of an injection of around £6 million the other service providers including the Link have little need of financial support. Golf makes a profit, the community centres are at break even or in profit. It is fair to consider does the council need to be in this area of service in the future and likewise does it need to get rid of services which are making money for the council and tax payer.

Milton Road Baths will need further consideration as it has a heritage and conservation requirement. Its context as a key part of the Towns history provides a special place both in the railway history and in the lives of many townspeople. Is this enough to provide the investment it needs and should it be part of this consultation is questionable. It appears sweetners are being offered to potential private and public providers but there are no guarantees. I do question why the right level of investment has not been made and why the baths has been allowed to get into this position. That this administration is now looking outside for investment. Neglect is an emotional term to describe the situation good management is not and it should have exposed the problem earlier.

Offline Richard Symonds

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Maybe there is a misunderstanding about 'selling ' these service off, it looks to me more like they would like a consortium of volunteer sportsmen/people to come forward, form an organisation to take over the management.  I.e. there would be no management costs to the borough and volunteers would take up the slack.

This way it's not gone forever, and in the hands of 'the people',  lets face it there must be among the present users, people with transferable skills that like their sport enough to do it and do it well.

Again, it's about doing a bit of giving and not taking all the time.   

A clever group would soon have the places paying/cutting even and be able to employ staff to manage on their behalf on a daily basis.

If it is to be achieved this way why talk of a 99 year lease M?

It can't be both!!

True Richard, that length of lease might be ill advised, however along with the lease, there should be a service level agreement.  The length of lease may reflect in what the management group can/can't do. 
Maybe the 99 year lease will only come into play if the management that comes forward can prove itself.

Let's hope they don't get into any long term, do as you please, leases, times and governments change so quickly.

If I could get a flipping account set up on the Adver I could put a few things straight on there.  It's obvious that most people can only think in terms of big business and vast profits and not service to the community.

Never mind how unfortunate it is M, A Contract is a Contract and whoever writes it has to be darned clever because there is always a clever lawyer who will find a way to circumvent it!!  The devil is always in the detail and it would appear that we are not too good at it.

Remember the Sales Mantra attributed to John Rushkin -"There is scarcely anything in the world that some man cannot do or make a little worse, and sell a little more cheaply. The person who buys on price alone is this man's lawful prey."

I wonder if our beloved Council have the expertise to offer a contract for the supply of Leisure Services that will endure for the period of the proposed lease?  ie 99 years by which time all of us will be dead and gone!!  As will the scribe, of course!!

And furthermore M you are always telling us how much work you do in Penhill.  Are there a surplus of suitably qualified people who you could lend to operate these centres and if not from where will they come?

If these Council run facilities are losing money and are being correctly run, the big question, how can someone else actually make a go of it and still satisfy the needs of Swindon's Council Tax payers who believe they own these assets in perpetuity?

If the Management doesn't work Change the Management, not shoot the customers!!

All my posts are my own opinion and do not represent any political organization or group

Offline Muggins

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Maybe there is a misunderstanding about 'selling ' these service off, it looks to me more like they would like a consortium of volunteer sportsmen/people to come forward, form an organisation to take over the management.  I.e. there would be no management costs to the borough and volunteers would take up the slack.

This way it's not gone forever, and in the hands of 'the people',  lets face it there must be among the present users, people with transferable skills that like their sport enough to do it and do it well.

Again, it's about doing a bit of giving and not taking all the time.   

A clever group would soon have the places paying/cutting even and be able to employ staff to manage on their behalf on a daily basis.

If it is to be achieved this way why talk of a 99 year lease M?

It can't be both!!

True Richard, that length of lease might be ill advised, however along with the lease, there should be a service level agreement.  The length of lease may reflect in what the management group can/can't do. 
Maybe the 99 year lease will only come into play if the management that comes forward can prove itself.

Let's hope they don't get into any long term, do as you please, leases, times and governments change so quickly.

If I could get a flipping account set up on the Adver I could put a few things straight on there.  It's obvious that most people can only think in terms of big business and vast profits and not service to the community.

Never mind how unfortunate it is M, A Contract is a Contract and whoever writes it has to be darned clever because there is always a clever lawyer who will find a way to circumvent it!!  The devil is always in the detail and it would appear that we are not too good at it.

Remember the Sales Mantra attributed to John Rushkin -"There is scarcely anything in the world that some man cannot do or make a little worse, and sell a little more cheaply. The person who buys on price alone is this man's lawful prey."

I wonder if our beloved Council have the expertise to offer a contract for the supply of Leisure Services that will endure for the period of the proposed lease?  ie 99 years by which time all of us will be dead and gone!!  As will the scribe, of course!!

And furthermore M you are always telling us how much work you do in Penhill.  Are there a surplus of suitably qualified people who you could lend to operate these centres and if not from where will they come?

If these Council run facilities are losing money and are being correctly run, the big question, how can someone else actually make a go of it and still satisfy the needs of Swindon's Council Tax payers who believe they own these assets in perpetuity?

If the Management doesn't work Change the Management, not shoot the customers!!




Usually when a contract is written between the voluntary/community sector and the Borough, it's the borough that writes it - because the voluntary community groups simply can't afford, nor get funded to employ lawyers, despite them being highly recommended when it comes to contracts.  So if the Leisure service went that way, the borough could/would write their own, which of course they would anyway, being the 'owners' of the properties.

I think the comment about ME always telling YOU how much I do on Penhill is unfair and unnecessarily sharp. I may well have told you some of the things I've learned and some experiences over the years, but if you've heard how hard I work for Penhill, it's not been directly from me, or you've been Googling me, or coming to your own conclusions!   It's no good any activist banging on about how hard they work, people come right back at you with - "no one asked you to", and anyhow, little be can be done personally, it's a team work thing.

As to the availability of 'fit and proper' people.  It's true that there are not many of them about, but at the level of those needed to manage our Leisure Centres, I wouldn't be looking at one neighbourhood, basically the whole of Swindon and those that work here is a much bigger pond. There must be people who would be attracted to the opportunity to manage them. Not easy but do-able. 

I'm not looking at it from contract in the commissioning sense, but the handing over of a lease to allow whoever, whatever, to take over management and within the terms of the service level agreement - and that could be as it is with community centres, albeit a bit grander- thou shalt manage this for the people of Swindon, though shalt keep this, this and this service going, thou shalt maintain and improve the building and land.  For the SBC part, they decide what they will continue to do to support that - or not!

Whatever I bet it's the management costs that they want to get rid of more than the maintenance costs - though no doubt at this juncture, they want to get rid of both. and because they understand business and come from a business background, they will want something corporate to take over. I think its not made clear and maybe that's because they are not clear - just chucking the ball in the court and seeing what goes in after it.

Don't you feel there's a lot of that lately both here and nationally?


Oi! Listen mush. Old eyes, remember? I’ve been around the block a few times. More than a few. They’ve knocked down the blocks I’ve been around and rebuilt them as bigger blocks. Super blocks. And I’ve been round them as well.  The Doctor (Night Terrors)

Offline Mickraker

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Whoes misinformation is that as  according to the adver consultation was in May with interested organisations  :-\
My non aggresive posts are my own opinion and represent me, myself and I only!

Offline bobwright

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Misinformation about financial position as if it applied to all the leisure services. Being in deep poo with Milton Road does not mean we have to get rid of all the family silver which is making money for the Tax payer.

Offline Mickraker

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Bob, the council recently spent 2 million on the link  and had an open day a few weeks back all appeared tickety boo then  :-\
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Offline Richard Symonds

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H ave you lot ever heard of CREATIVE ACCOUNTANCY?

Do I actually need to say anything else?
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Offline Muggins

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Ah, cooking the books.

Just a thought, that before anything is handed over the Borough usually as to put it in good order, how much will that cost?

I mean would you take anything on that needed an overall?
Oi! Listen mush. Old eyes, remember? I’ve been around the block a few times. More than a few. They’ve knocked down the blocks I’ve been around and rebuilt them as bigger blocks. Super blocks. And I’ve been round them as well.  The Doctor (Night Terrors)

Offline Richard Symonds

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Ah, cooking the books.

Just a thought, that before anything is handed over the Borough usually as to put it in good order, how much will that cost?

I mean would you take anything on that needed an overall?

No M it is a question as to how accounts (remember the word) are attributed to costs and income.

You like me are not an accountant and therefore neither of us are able to determine the detail without a bit of help.  Remember as in contracts the devil is always in the detail!

Question to Council - How much of the Chief Executive's Salary is attributed to the Leisure Account and how will his salary be funded after Leisure is Priavatized?
All my posts are my own opinion and do not represent any political organization or group