Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Northumberland Labour Group cannot believe that Liberal Democrat Councillor Neil Bradbury wishes to continue with his quest to build a leisure facility in Ashington specifically for a private partner. particularly since Council Scrutiny members have 'Called In' his report to a special scrutiny meeting to be held this Thursday

Councillor Grant Davey Leader of Northumberland Labour Group said "Its a pity that Northumberland County Council executive committee is split so badly that they have stopped talking to each other. The new facility in Ashington is but one element of the redevelopment of the Town Centre which in Executive plans will include a Library and a one stop shop, Council offices and possibly a base for core services". 

Council Leisure contracts are developed on a deficit bid basis to attempt to close the gap between the amount of money a Council wishes to spend on leisure and the revenue that a contractor or department can make from the Councils customers. This allows non-profit making sports to be included into Councils plans. In the world of Private Leisure the offer is focused on profit making to ensure shareholders receive a healthy annual return.

"Concentration on the profit making elements of leisure does not assist the Council aims for Social Inclusion, we need to widen the public leisure scope to ensure all age groups are catered for and not concentrate on fitness suites and Zumba classes, as they are currently supplied very well by private providers in the area".

Neil Bradbury report on Leisure privatisation (which he doesn't like that particular 'p' word) has been 'called in' under the constitution by the Conservative group (and we're supporting the call in). Its due to be heard in a public meeting on Thursday at Ponteland. We have some serious concerns about the paper and its ramifications which were discussed and agreed by the Liberal cabinet last Tues (prior to Full Council on Wed).

The main concerns are the 'ramshackle nature of the proposals' which Councillor Bradbury has said will be his contribution to the £77m savings required under Councillor Tebbutt's now infamous PPP briefing paper.  '.Labour group leader Grant Davey said "This proposal put forward by Councillor Bradbury is badly thought out and has serious ramifications for residents and employee's of Northumberland alike. Not only does he propose to giveaway over £20m of council assets to the private sector but he also proposes to effectively tear up the existing contracts with providers at every leisure outlet across the county. That's why it is right to support this call in and to ask the council to reconsider his plans which do not add up".

The meeting at County Hall last Wed was successful from a Labour perspective with both substantive motions on Regional Pay and on Service Privatisation carried with a cross party consensus. Its over 4 years since Labour and the conservative's in the county have joined in such an endeavour and the motions also attracted support from the trade unions.

There is still some confusion given council have called for a halt on the PPP proposals until they are properly scrutinised but there is a serious question over a 'timetable to privatisation' set out in the briefing note by Councillor Tebbutt. We are pressing to find out if this timetable still applies.

Labour group leader Grant Davey said"Its right that the Liberal administration has listened to the barrage voicing concern over the nature of the PPP proposals. I'm pleased that Labour and the Conservatives on the council put aside our differences and came together for the good of the County. There is still confusion at the heart of this policy though and we'd like the council to confirm whether they are still sticking to Councillor Tebbutt's timetable. There is an absolute need for transparency on this policy and its time we had a definitive statement from the Leader of the Council not a series of reactions to news that is leaking out of the authority".

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