Thursday, 3 September 2015

Offloading Leisure Services - No opposition? - updated

Update 8th September;

The agenda for the Community Scrutiny Committee (14th Sept) has now been published (here) and includes the detailed 'Alternative Management Options for Leisure' report by RPT Consulting.

It looks like the recommendation is to initially offload Sports & Leisure and theatres to an existing trust company following a procurement exercise. There appears to have been little interest in taking over the less commercially viable archives and museums, but these will be considered at a later date.


The Carmarthen Journal and the Llanelli Star have this week picked up on the council's plans to outsource leisure services to charities, trusts or arms length companies.
I have been reporting on developments since October last year, and in February, and last Friday.

Anyway, the papers have a quote or two and Council leader Emlyn Dole doesn't sound particularly averse to the idea and neither does the opposition. It's just as well really as the wheels are already in motion, £30k+ is being spent on an external consultancy to sift through the interested parties and the award process is due to start in February.

Cllr Dole also states that, whilst they need to think 'creatively' (this is the latest buzzword instead of the less publicly palatable 'outsourcing') 'no assets' will be sold off. Given the current policy of selling off anything which isn't tied down this is a promise which will be difficult to keep. Presumably if (or rather 'when') they are, he will ensure a better deal for the Carmarthenshire taxpayer than the chief executive did over the Martson's deal.

Just to remind readers, 'Expressions of interest' have been invited for the whole leisure department and includes leisure centres, theatres, country parks, museums, libraries, the archives, etc.

It is a pity that not only is there no effective opposition - vital for scrutinising executive decisions - but the new leadership seems willing to remove the leisure department from the auspices of democratic control and proper scrutiny (albeit Carmarthenshire style), to trusts or arms length companies.

More importantly, it is becoming increasingly obvious that neither Cllr Dole, nor the weak opposition have any effective say in the future of council services, nor the many council jobs which will be at risk. Neither do they have the stomach, nor even the desire, to rock the officer-led regime.

There are murmurings of dissent and one Labour councillor has promised to 'demand reassurances' at the next council meeting that Pembrey Park will not be offloaded (the agenda has just been published and there's no sign of a demand). Anyway, as part of Mark and Meryl's original Masterplan, plans to offload the country park have been around for years.

The final decision will be based on an officer's report which will offer no other 'realistic' option aside from the one which has been happily germinating for the past eighteen months.
That officer's report is now doing the rounds of various committees before heading to full council later in the Autumn.

The council needs to make savings, we are aware of that, and it is likely that non-statutory services will be the first to go, whatever the massive up front costs of setting up trusts, charities or companies are. But the real worry is that if the Parc Howard and Archives fiascos (and all the other fiascos too numerous to list) are anything to go by, transparency, good governance and due diligence are unlikely to be particularly prominent.


Anonymous said...

Actually, this could be a good thing. Outsource everything and eventual there will be no need for a council or the muppet show that controls it. They can all disappear into the night...

We should/could be the removal of any overpaid over-rated ineffectual persons and the whole thing run by a small group of councillors on sensible wages with a chairperson, the role being restricted to a 3 year term.

The more the population of Carmarthenshire realise what the people that supposedly work for and represent them are up to the more there will be hunger for change.

Keep up the good work!

CCC Watcher said...

They don't have to sell anything off, just give a ridiculously long lease such as the 150 years given to the Scarlets, and they can say that their statement was "honest".

Anonymous said...

What scrutiny would happen under this 'new' future?
Based on current models of leadership from the council what checks and measures stops a trust selling off museum exhibits, a trust receiving 1,000s to get people fitter and not deliver on that?

Anonymous said...

This new future they have in mind has led to a whiff of alienation in Cardigan with Cardigan Castle, just check the investigation of Jac O'North. Are the checks and measures that there be no corruption really being carried out there?

Anonymous said...

The Jac'oNorth blog investigating the goings-on witth Cardigan Castle is incredible. Especially if you are Welsh.