THE privatisation of library and leisure services has been approved in a bid to annually save more than £900,000, a plan the opposition are ‘uneasy’ with.
Harrow Council decided at a cabinet meeting, on Thursday, June 6, that John Laing Integrated Services Ltd, a not for profit trust, will now deliver library services for Harrow and Ealing. Sports and Leisure Management Ltd (SLM) will deliver leisure services for Harrow, Ealing and Brent and provide a £1.7million investment in the Leisure Centre in Christchurch Avenue, Harrow.
It it believed that by working in partnership with neighbouring boroughs, the council can deliver value for money for taxpayers with annual savings of £930,000 per year thanks to the new scheme.
The £1.7m investment to improve Harrow Leisure Centre will provide the latest gym equipment, new gym changing facilities and an improved reception area. The new libraries contract will also ensure that Harrow Council retains control of all decisions regarding the service.
Harrow Council’s portfolio holder for community and cultural services and Independent Labour Group councillor Nizam Ismail said: “Ensuring that libraries and leisure centres continue to provide high standards is a top priority for the council and this new partnership will protect our services for the future, even though the council is facing unprecedented financial pressure.”
Conservative Group leader, councillor Susan Hall, said: “We are uneasy that this decision has been made. We have been asking questions about the specifics of the library and leisure contracts for months now and we are uncomfortable with the answers we have received.
“These concerns involve everything from the investment costs to the flexibility the council has to adjust the terms of the contracts if desired. We are also very worried at the length of these contracts. They will essentially bind in future administrations.”
Brent and Ealing’s councils had already approved the plans, but Harrow’s decision was delayed due to the recent political upheaval in which nine rebel councillors broke away from the Labour Group to form an Independent Labour Group.
The contract with the leisure services will be for 10 years and the contract for libraries services for five years, with the potential to extend for a further five years. Both plans are due to begin on September 1.