In Winning the Pools, we provided our readers with a cogent analysis of the benefits and
disbenefits of the Commissar's intention to privatise the swimming pools. We said he had no idea how to operate public services and, given the way he keeps closing them down he displays all the hallmarks of wishing there were none to bother him. Now
the chickens have come home to roost.
In a move we entirely predicted, the pools now look set to remain in-house
Well, possibly, that is. There is a continuing threat to transfer them to Wyre Council (see Wylde Fyreworks?) which would potentially put them under the control of the YMCA (who manage Wyre's leisure
facilities) which Fylde is about to decide not to do.
Yes, the logic of that escapes us as well.
In our previous report we looked at staffing costs and concluded that there was really no scope for savings in staff costs, unless the Commissar was willing to compromise public safety by having cowboys instead of attendants.
We also looked at cutting overheads and concluded there was no scope for real savings there either.
Finally we looked at whether he could introduce higher charges and value added services to generate more income to offset the operating costs. We thought this was the most likely way to cut net expenditure, but we didn't have much hope unless he was
prepared to change the reason the pools were there in the first place.
The usual thing in these instances is that the Council continues to subsidise swimming for social, educational, and tourism reasons, and the only real saving is on the business rates that would arise if the pools were managed by a registered charity
(such as the YMCA who manage Wyre's pools).
Well, after all the studies and consultants, and staff and councillor time spent on looking at this, the recommendation going to the Cabinet meeting on 14th November is that the management of the swimming pools in St Anne's and Kirkham be retained
in-house. The proposal also suggests that the Cabinet look at proposals for development of dry leisure facilities attached to the pools and consider the associated costs as part of the budget process.
As regular readers will expect, we welcome this proposal, and we hope the Cabinet will endorse the recommendations (although we continue to maintain it is a policy decision that ought to have been made by the full Council meeting.
The officers report showed that on a current budget of £478,000 only £12,000 of savings could have been achieved by privatising the pools to the YMCA, (as the report puts it "The extensive tendering process, which reliably reached all major
national leisure providers, failed to generate interest from all but two. Of these the cash savings can only be demonstrated by one and this is due to the savings which the YMCA are entitled to on business rates")
The second lowest external tender would have required £100,000 more than it currently costs to run the service in-house.
However, we wonder how much time and money has been wasted on aborted proposals, meetings, consultants and other reports, leading to a full blown tender process in which only two bids were received?
Anyone with a bit of nous and some previous experience could have saved this cost by explaining to the Commissar that pools providing a public service always needs a subsidy to run them. (That's if he was prepared to listen of course).
That's why the Council (and not business) provides them in the first place.
Dated: 1 November 2007