The Bickerstaffe Record

Being Labour, Cotterill on the Council, Leisure and culture

When a million’s not enough

10.22.09 | Comment?

Tory-controlled West Lancashire Borough Council hands over a million quid a year to Serco to let it mismanage its leisure facilities and charge for stuff that’s free in neighbouring areas.

It also give £16,000 a year or so to West Lancashire Leisure Trust (WLLT), who are supposed to manage what Serco get up to.  (Yeah, right).  WLLT told councillors, just the other week, that one of its main functions is ‘public relations’.

Imagine my surprise, then, to find that the council spends officer time doing Serco’s press releases for it.  This, remember, is a period when the council’s supposed to be right up against it and really focusing in on its priorities.

When I queried this, I was told that Serco was a council partner, and that it was ok therefore to do all its public relations for it.

This is nonsense.  They are not partners.  They are, in the eyes of the law, contractors.

Serco is just like lots of other organisations that have contracts for delivery of some service or other.  None of them get free PR.  I’m treasurer to a charity which has a very small contract with the council.  I hate to think what the council would say if I asked it to do our PR (though I might try).

It is wrong that Serco should be a special case, and wrong that more money than ever is being wasted keeping them sweet.

Even worse, the very reason West Lancashire Leisure Trust was brought into existence in the first place is so that, if and when it gained charitable status, it would have tax advantages, making the provision more cost-effective. 

This is still a ‘pending’ matter, nearly fice years after its formation, and no such advantages are enjoyed.  Industrial & Provident Society status has been considered as an alternative, but has now been dumped.

The Tories are pouring taxpayers’ money away, and have stupidly and arrogantly locked us into a 15 year contract wih Serco. 

That’s the same Serco which have just overseen an 11% drop inunder 17 swimming in August, having claimed they couldn’t te the government grant for free swimming on the basis that they’d have to pay enough staff to cope with the 40-50% increase in usage experienced in nearby Wigan.  I rest my case.



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