RISING ‘high-risk’ costs of revamping leisure centres in the district could add an extra £1million to the council’s bill.
Warwick District Council is currently carrying out a £14.5million refurbishment of Warwick St Nicholas Park and Leamington’s Newbold Comyn centres.
But an extra £1million is set to be added to that figure to pay gym operators – who will have a contract to run the facilities – to lease gym equipment.
The council say they will get a better leasing rate than operators and money made back over the ten year contract – which is yet to be decided – will ‘significantly exceed’ the £1million.
Councillors were yesterday expected to approve plans, which are part of the council’s budget and would see the money drawn from council reserves.
But Labour councillors are concerned the money would see membership fees at the gyms rise in order for the operator to pay back the council.
Coun Colin Quinney said “This is with the promise of a higher return from the external operator in several years time – there is little guarantee that we will get the money back and the risks are high.
“If the money in reserve is burning a hole in the administration’s pocket, why not build or buy some houses for local residents on our waiting list? Is this sensible financial management?”
Warwick District Council say the investment will recoup more money in the long run and that they are near appointing a contractor to take on the two centres.
A spokeswoman told the Observer: “Warwick District Council is nearing the conclusion of a comprehensive tender process to identify an external partner to operate the council’s leisure centres from June.
“The process has attracted all of the recognised industry leading companies, all of whom are experienced operators, able to work in partnership with the council to deliver quality leisure services.
“In order to ensure the council secured the best possible benefits for the local taxpayer, negotiations have been taking place over recent weeks with the companies still involved in the process. Following these negotiations, senior officers and councillors consider investment in an upfront management fee represents the best possible financial outcome for the council over the ten years of the leisure centre contract.”
The pool and gym at Newbold is set to open in the summer. The entire project is set to be completed by the end of the year.