Council accused of ‘secret privatisation’.
Leisure services in line for sell off despite promise to halt privatisation moves
Labour politicians in Northumberland have called for the Liberal administration to ‘come clean’ over moves to privatise leisure centres and services across the county after the county’s ruling Liberal executive announced plans to ‘cave in’ to Labour and Tory pressure over plans to privatise ‘unspecified services’.
Liberal Cabinet member Neil Bradbury has already presented outline plans to replace five leisure trusts that run council leisure services with one ‘outsourced’ provider and Labour are seeking answers about these privatisation moves. A controversial idea put forward by Councillor Bradbury was to ‘use the soon to be built £20m Ashington Leisure and Community Centre as a ‘giveaway sweetener’ to bring in an external provider.
The authority has confirmed that Councillor Bradbury’s controversial plans are still on-going and are separate to the leadership’s pledge to halt wholesale privatisation.
Labour Leader Grant Davey said
‘This is a worrying move by the Liberals to continue with a backdoor privatisation while assuring residents that they haven’t made any decisions about outsourcing county services. This move by Councillor Bradbury raises very serious concerns over value for money as he has already indicated on record that he favours using the new £20m Ashington Leisure centre as a ‘sweetener’ to an outside provider. The council have already indicated they’re borrowing the money for Ashington leisure centre only to give the centre away. That can’t be good economic sense and coming on the back of additional £1.53m the council have so far spent on their abortive privatisation programme, we’re calling for assurances from Councillor Bradbury and his leader that the leisure privatisation will be stopped too until at least May 2013. Labour is calling for the Liberals to stop this rush and consider looking at our proposal to support a creation of a ‘single trust’ to cover the whole county.