Fears raised over changes to leisure centres

Whitby Leisure centre which has possibly been taken over by a private company
Whitby Leisure centre which has possibly been taken over by a private company

Staff at leisure facilitates in the borough have told The Scarborough News they are concerned that a new company will be taking over the running of the centres.

Sports Leisure Management (SLM) is in talks to take over the day-to-day operations of the facilities, including Scarborough’s indoor pool and Whitby Leisure Centre.

Staff who contacted the paper say they are concerned that the company is being brought in to make redundancies and to slash the budget.

Their fears are borne out by the minutes of April’s Scarborough Council cabinet meeting in which the reasons for appointing SLM, which will also oversee the Weaponness leisure village on a 10 year lease when built, are given.

It states: “Given the very real financial challenges facing the council over the next five to 10 years, and the significant risk this posed in terms of being able to provide high quality, accessible sport and leisure facilities, Councillor [David) Chance underlined the benefits of engaging a specialist company with a single expert focus on providing excellence in sport and leisure facilities management, who could also offer significant budget savings.”

One employee, who did not wish to be named, said: “We have been told that when SLM took over the Pickering Sports Centre all the staff who were there have now been forced out.

“We feel we are being abandoned by the council with no chance of redundancy or prospects of a permanent job.”

In October last year SLM, operating under its brand name Everyone Active, took charge of Ryedale District Council’s leisure facilities.

In a statement SLM said Whitby Leisure Centre and Pindar Leisure Centre will receive investment for improvements. Pindar Leisure Centre will also receive a new fitness suite.

David Bibby, SLM managing director, said: “We are delighted to have been chosen to manage the centres by Scarborough Borough Council. This is a very exciting time for the town, with such fantastic and brand new leisure facilities in the pipeline.

“We pride ourselves on being a community-focussed company, with a mission to encourage more people to do at least 30 minutes of exercise, five times a week.

“The new Leisure Village will undoubtedly play a huge part in improving the health and wellbeing of people in Scarborough and our focus is now on ensuring that we achieve our mission and that each of the centres is managed to the highest standard when we begin operating them.”