Exeter council to ditch leisure provider

The pool? Second left by the scaffolding under the dripping roof

Centres will be council run

Exeter City Council will run its own leisure centres when the existing contract with Legacy Leisure comes to an end in September.

The ruling Labour group says it’s a matter for consideration at the moment, but with the party controlling about three-quarters of the vote, it’s a done deal if truth be told. Council leader Phil Bialyk definitely wants the city’s leisure facilities back under council control. 

Legacy was already on its way out, with Exeter looking for a new operator from the autumn. The council says that because of “the impacts of covid-19, councillors will now consider ending that procurement process and bringing the services back in-house. Staff working at the city’s leisure sites, which are currently closed due to coronavirus restrictions, would transfer to the employment of the city council under the plan.”

Exeter’s leisure centres have been mired in difficulties for some years. A fire three and a half years ago at the Riverside Centre in Alphington spelled the end of swimming facilities there. Scaffolding’s been in place ever since. Last year the council announced Clifton Hill Leisure Centre, also in the centre of the city, would be sold to pay for repairs to Riverside. And don’t get anyone started on the plight of the Pyramids, which are so old and decrepit the Pharaohs are thought to have once swum there.

The council’s executive team will look at the plans next week and is then expected to make a recommendation to councillors when they meet on 21 July. Cllr Bialyk said: “We look after our employees, we will work with the trade unions to ensure new staff are well looked after and welcomed into the council. By bringing the services under the control of the council, we will be responsible for the maintenance of the buildings, the staff and for the provision of the activities. This gives us greater flexibility and over the coming months we will reach out to residents to find out what they want to see for their facilities in the future. It is early days, but I really want to return this service back to the council so we can better respond to the needs of the people of Exeter.”

The council’s statement notably contains no message of thanks to Legacy Leisure for its work over the years.

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