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Being Labour, Cotterill on the Council, Leisure and culture

Serco at it again as Park Pool crèche to close

01.19.10 | Comment?

I’ve just learned that our friends at Serco Leisure have decided to close the creche at Ormskirk Park Pool, making two staff members redundant.  Here’s my reaction to the press:

 This shock news of the closure of the Park Pool crèche, and redundancy for two valued staff members, is an indictment both of Serco’s overall approach to its contractual obligations, and of the Conservative council’s failure to hold Serco properly to account.

This, of course, is not the only closure of a crèche by Serco.  There is no longer a crèche service at Skelmersdale Sports Centre, and this is part of a general running down of the service provided there. 

The news that Ormskirk also will also lose its crèche is reflective of Serco’s overall strategic direction, which is focused on increasing high-paying visits from a smaller number of users at the expense of a proper community-focused offer which seeks to meet the needs of the many.

This is doubly sad because many Serco staff themselves, often previous employees of the council, are actually very keen to engage in a wider community role, and are clearly hampered by a head office insistent on a ‘private gym’ style strategy that suits its ‘bottom line’.

The key problem with the Conservative council is that the contract it signed with Serco is so weak that when Serco make decisions like this there is no contractual comeback.  The council is happy to bury its head in the sand and pretend Serco is doing a good job, while the whole experience of their residents – the people who pay the 1million per year subsidy to Serco – is to the contrary.  

The council’s overview and scrutiny committee had a presentation from Serco in the Autumn.  Labour councillor were the only ones who asked questions about details of Serco’s performance.  The Conservatives sat on their hands.  No mention was made in that glossy presentation of the cutting of the crèche service.

The Conservatives’ ideological insistence on privatisation, and their incompetence in signing off a 15 year contract with so little in the way of guarantees about service delivery that actually meets the needs of all residents, are the main reason that the people of West Lancashire now have leisure services which are failing them and their families.

Finally, it is also worth noting that £20,000 allegedly stolen from Burscough Sports Centre – apparently a result of Serco’s head office administration failure – would probably have been enough to retain the crèche at Park Pool.  This step to make frontline staff redundant, while at the same time mismanaging back office systems in this way, is surely a further nail in the coffin of Serco’s local reputation, as well as that of the council that hired them.

 

 

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