The leader of Pendle Borough Council has hit back at claims that leisure centres in the borough are at risk of being sold off to private investors.
The Liberal Democrat group has tabled a motion for the next full council meeting calling for leisure services to be protected, and based on public need rather than private profit.
Worries about the future of Pendle Leisure Trust have arisen following a ‘strategic review of delivery of sports/leisure provision’ decided by the last Policy and Resources Committee.
Coun. David Whipp said: “There is a serious concern that the review as planned by the Conservative council leadership is a backdoor to selling off some of the services and privatising the provision of the rest.
“They say they will keep the three main leisure centres in Nelson, Colne and Barnoldswick, but there is no guarantee they will not be handed over to profit-making enterprises or that services will not be priced out of reach of many local people – often the ones who need them the most.”
But Coun. Paul White, the Tory leader of the council, has rebutted those claims and accused the Lib Dems of ‘scare-mongering’.
He said: “Pendle Council has a target of saving £4m. over the three year period to 2021/2022. Pendle Leisure Trust is independent of Pendle Borough Council, yet we gave them a grant which was £1.3m. this year to operate some leisure facilities in the borough.
“As we look to make savings across the council, we must ensure that the taxpayers’ money we are spending is value for money and that we’re able to provide modern services well into the future.
“That is what this review is about, ensuring that there will be a leisure offer in Pendle well into the future. It certainly isn’t about a sell-off.
“The truth is, the Liberal Democrats aren’t bothered about ensuring we have these services well into the future. All they are interested in is whether there’s a soapbox they can climb on, particularly as they become more and more irrelevant.
“What is important is that we provide the strong Leadership the council needs to transform services in the borough so they are still here in 10 or 20 years and that’s why we’ve asked for this review, to do exactly that.
“Our priority is ensuring there is a leisure offer here for many years to come and we’re going to look at the best way of providing that.”
The Lib Dem motion will be debated at the next council meeting on Tuesday.
Coun. Whipp added: “It is vital that the overall decisions about what is provided and how should remain with councillors elected by local people.
“It is also vital that decisions about running the services should remain with local people – and that users of the facilities should be involved much more than in the past.”