Wrexham Council are looking to hand over Plas Madoc leisure centre to the local community in a move that would keep it open. If this does not happen it could close in April.
The offer is detailed in this report that is heading to the Council’s Executive Board next week, and explains how Wrexham Council would pass the running of the centre into a ‘social enterprise’. The offloading alternative is stark, as if the option is not explored and taken up quite quickly the centre could be closed in around 60 days time with Wrexham.com being told “Plas Madoc’s survival will depend on what comes forward from the community”.
The report (PDF here) states the recommendations put forward as:
– to seek expressions of interest in the transfer of the Plas Madoc Leisure Centre to a community-based social enterprise/mutual before 30 April 2014, at no cost to the Council.
– Otherwise closing, decommission and demolish Plas Madoc Leisure Centre
– Sell off Plas Madoc and use the money for a reduced community facility
– Transfer management of the Council’s Leisure Service to a Trust.
– To ‘consult with schools where dual use leisure facilities are based (excluding Clywedog swimming pool) on the transfer of the management of the facilities to the schools
– Identify options for funding a replacement facility for Waterworld, reporting back to Executive Board at a future date
Cllr David Griffiths spoke yesterday revealing that there has been over 2000 ‘representations’ made to the Council on the closure issue, but also said that the Plas Madoc centre is ‘losing over £500,000 a year’, he was also clear this was a ‘cut’ not a ‘saving’ saying “savings are something to me that you can put in the bank and use, cuts are not.” The benefits to Wrexhamites of the Council’s leisure services were highlighted, however he said “It is a discretionary service, that costs the Council around £1.8 million a year to run”.
Cllr Griffiths said “I am heartened with the opposition and understand what they are saying, but I cannot let my heart rule my head”
“We need to look carefully at the range of facilities we provide, and identify those that do not meet our requirements, or are beyond their useful life, and or cost too much to sustain.”
A couple of hours after yesterdays briefing protesters took to the Guildhall to highlight their displeasure at the idea of closure – you can see our report live from lunchtime yesterday here.
Concern has been raised over the cost of consultants generally with Wrexham Council, and specifically in terms of the Leisure Review. Wrexham.com asked if they provided value for money, and we were told by both Cllr David Griffiths & Cllr Neil Rogers that they are “assured by officers it is value for money, and it is the going rate”.
Cllr Rogers went further saying “Many accusations have been made, including that it is flawed, and if that is the case tell us.”
“It has also been said that we, and the Chief Executive, have refused to meet people, but that is not true’.
Wrexham.com also asked if the contract with The Sports Consultancy had any performance related fees, for example if cuts were made would consultants received a percentage of those cuts. This question was based off tender requests such as this which state “ceasing a service will not contribute to the financial gain for the purposes of risk and reward payments”, which implies it is possible that contracts that contain the opposite may exist.
Due to the commercial nature of contracts it was not possible to gain specific comment, however Cllr Griffiths made it very clear he was unaware of such arrangements, now or in the past.
Wrexham.com also asked if any views were held on the recent calls to make Waterworld a listed building, we were told “We have to wait to see what Cadw say, we have no input to Cadw and they make the decision”.
We also asked if finance and plans were in place to fund any replacement Waterworld facility. We were told there is no specific funding, and development would be “subject to potential borrowing.”
“From reorganising the leisure services it will allow us to borrow, but there will be a shortfall, but in a better position than we are in at the moment”
When asked if there was a timeline in place for both Plas Madoc and Waterworld we were told “If we are closing Plas Madoc , it has to be done before the next financial year” and “There is no timescale for a Waterworld replacement.”
Clarification was given to the short term plans for Plas Madoc, with the report due to go before the Executive Board next week, and if approved discussions will start ‘immediately’ with relevant stakeholders with a view to hand over the centre.