Focus falls on future of leisure centres

A new team could be brought in to run all Northumberland’s public leisure provision, including centres in Alnwick and Rothbury.

Leisure chief Coun Neil Bradbury describes the deal as uncontroversial and wants the decision delegated to himself and a colleague without other councillors having a say.

The authority is already seeking a commercial partner to take on services as it faces pressure to save £74million within three or four years, on top of £100million and 1,500 jobs it has slashed already. It argues that will save jobs.

Coun Bradbury’s aim is to cut the £4million annual subsidy by a quarter. He maintains to colleagues that the leisure deal is not privatisation because the old district councils brought in outside organisations to run the sports centres.

Coun Bradbury describes this mixture as a ‘mess of contracts’, but praises the result.

He said: “My strong preference is to use the lure of a brilliant new facility in Ashington as the starter of a contract, where we will appoint a preferred provider who will gradually take over the other centres when the other providers’ contracts come to an end. My aim is to save 25 per cent on the leisure subsidy, but with little increase in prices and no cutting back in service.”

Labour group leader Coun Grant Davey said: “Once again the Lib Dem administration has been caught trying to slip through plans to sell off the family silver.”