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A councillor has warned that any move to outsource leisure centres in Lichfield and Burntwood must not impact pricing and opening hours.
Lichfield District Council has confirmed it is exploring proposals to see the management of The Friary and Burntwood Leisure Centre taken on by a private company.
The move would come as part of a review of the local authority’s finances.
But Liberal Democrat Councillor Paul Ray has called for communities to be protected if any changes do go ahead.
“It must be remembered that these centres are community facilities,” he said. “Any outsourcing must mean that the council retains some control over pricing, the variety of facilities offered and opening hours.
“I await developments to ensure that any deal struck is right financially for the council and for the people of Lichfield and Burntwood.”
The local authority has already confirmed it intends to pull out of a lease on King Edward VI Leisure Centre as it looks to find savings as part of the Fit for the Future review.
Cllr Ray said that moves to outsource the district’s other two centres needed to have proven benefits.
“I do not object in principle to the outsourcing of The Friary and Burntwood Leisure Centre,” he said. “But if the council goes down this route it must work for the people of Lichfield and Burntwood – there must be tangible benefits.
“These two facilities are well used and the provision of sporting and leisure facilities is important for the public health and wellbeing of local people.
“I appreciate that there are severe financial constraints on the council due to Government policy and it is quite right that the council continues to look for efficiency improvements and alternative ways of providing services.
“But will real savings be achieved from outsourcing? I would want to see clear figures to convince me of this.”
Councillor Andy Smith, Cabinet member for leisure at Lichfield District Council, said he was committed to ensuring any deal worked for local residents.
“We know how popular our leisure centres are and know what an important role they play in helping local people to keep fit and healthy and in making the district a great place to live,” he said.
“Many councils throughout the country work with leisure trusts and companies to manage and run leisure centres and sport facilities,” he said.
“This helps them to reduce costs and the risk of providing the facilities, but also because it can use the skills and expertise of a specialist operator. A leisure operator managing many centres also has greater economies of scale compared with a council that manages a small number.
“Outsourcing the management of leisure centres is a lengthy process, but we will only enter a contract if it is the best choice for local people.
“To make that judgement, councillors will continually question whether there are real financial savings to be made and whether outsourcing will continue to help encourage more local people to be more active more often.”