What I Learnt From The Customer Forum At Totton

Dumbells
Dumbells

I attended the customer forum, held by bosses at New Forest District Council, at the Totton Health & Leisure Centre today.

Being a lunchtime on a working day, I wasn’t surprised that there were only a dozen or so customers present to hear about the plans to privatise the management of all five Health & Leisure Centres.

There was some criticism by one of the main user groups that the event wasn’t well publicised.

They had not sent e-mails to the main user groups.

About half the time was taken up explaining the process.

This can be summarised as follows… they have shortlisted four potential organisations who have shown an interest in taking on the ten year contract to run the five centres.

They anticipate that they will be in a position to select the winning provider by the end of March and will do a round of further forums with the winning bidder present to answer questions.

This proposal is mainly about money.

The Health & Leisure Centres run at a total profit of around £220k a year, but the facilities require investment of about £900k annually.

The hope is that a commercial concern can operate more efficiently and reduce this funding gap.

A lot of work has been done and will need to be done in contract specifications, ranging from protecting the staff terms and conditions, the interests of the various user groups, membership terms, the Active Life programme and pricing (with only inflation increases allowed).

I asked what feedback they had received from forums and consultations to date, specifically were people supportive of privatisation plans or against?

The answer I got was that “Almost all stakeholders have concerns”.

I interpret this as being minimal support for the change, but that those running the Council feel forced into changing it because of the financial pressures.

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