Shropshire Council may seek bids to run sports centres

Leisure centres in Shropshire could be run by private companies if plans by Shropshire Council to contract out management services are approved.

The council has recommended it seek bids from other leisure service providers on the open market.

The proposal will be outlined in a report to be discussed by the council's cabinet on 16 March.

A council spokesman said the idea would save hundreds of thousands of pounds a year from the council's leisure budget.

But Councillor Alan Mosley, leader of the council's Labour group, said the proposal caused "enormous concern".

He said: "It will result in a loss of control and move the service out of the public sector.

"If it's no longer a public service it becomes a way of making money and reduces accountability to the public."

He added he would be looking at any proposal "very carefully" to ensure it would not result in a decline in quality.

The proposal is for the management of five community leisure facilities - Bridgnorth Leisure Centre, Market Drayton Swimming Centre, Oswestry Leisure Centre, Whitchurch Swimming Centre and Shrewsbury Sports Village and Indoor Bowls Hall.

'Extremely passionate'

The council spokesman said the proposal was part of the Conservative-run council's wider approach to "transforming" local public services, which will see businesses, social enterprises, and voluntary and community groups taking over the running of services and facilities.

Councillor Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council's cabinet member for culture and leisure, said: "We are extremely passionate about providing good public services to our residents.

"I am very keen to see as many of our current cultural and leisure facilities as possible continue to play a part in local people's lives, by improving their health and well-being.

"We cannot ignore the fact that our local communities could benefit more from some of these facilities being provided by somebody other than the council."

If agreed, the new arrangements for running the facilities could be in place by April 2012.

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