Posted: 03.06.20 at 15:03 by The Editor
A consultancy firm helping South Kesteven District Council develop the case for better leisure facilities across the district has billed SKDC almost £300,000.
Last year, the council made five separate payments to Mace Ltd for ‘consultant’s fees’ totalling £284,000, but opposition Independent councillors are ‘outraged’ at the cost, claiming the produced report is of ‘very little’ value to the council.
Mace was employed to deliver detailed business cases for new leisure centres in Stamford and the Deepings and for refurbished facilities in Bourne. The consultants were also engaged to investigate whether Grantham’s facilities should be relocated from the Meres to the town centre.
Independent councillor Ashley Baxter says the report has been delivered to the council but has not yet been published in the public domain. He also says councillors have been told it has “very little value” to SKDC’s 'Leisure Transformation' strategy.
Cllr Ashley Baxter (Ind-Market and West Deeping) told Nub News: “This is a shocking waste of taxpayers’ money. The fees paid to Mace could have gone a long way towards replacing the all-weather pitch in the Deepings which has been condemned because the council allowed to go to rack and ruin.
"The Council is facing criticism tomorrow (Thursday) for its poor performance on procurement issues and sadly this is another an example of spend first, ask questions later."
He continued: "Recent officer appointments and changes within the council cabinet give me some encouragement that we will eventually see plans for a new Deepings Leisure Centre but many in the Deepings are asking 'is it ever going to happen'?"
Cllr Virginia Moran (Ind-Market and West Deeping) also told Nub News: “We didn't need consultants to determine whether there is a business case for a new Deepings leisure centre - it's obvious! - and I said so at the time before they were appointed.
"Our decrepit sports facilities are literally falling apart yet they are still used by thousands of swimmers and sports teams every week (apart from during the lockdown of course)."
The pair say promises made by senior Conservative councillors for a new leisure centre in Stamford have been abandoned despite expensive pre-election posters declaring it was being 'delivered'.
Suggestions that Grantham's Leisure facilities might be relocated to the town centre have also been ruled out, they added.
Deepings Councillors say they have been promised that they will be able to see detailed options for a new Deepings Leisure Centre before the end of June.
Cllr Baxter commented: ”We live in hope that there will be some sensible and costed proposals to discuss this month.
Of course, even when we have a firm proposal, the council will still have to navigate the planning process, the funding, the land-ownership and of course the construction of the new building. We have waited three years to get to this stage so it's going to be a very long time before anyone swims in the new pool."
SKDC told Nub News that improving leisure facilities continues to be a ‘top priority; for the council and it confirmed Mace was employed last year to undertake a feasibility, identifying potential schemes for development of its leisure facilities, together with associated business cases.
A council statement continued: “As part of this work reports were completed to determine the latent demand for sport and physical activity across the district, together with detailed building condition surveys at each location.
“The feasibility work has been completed, which has identified a range of improvements and new development possibilities and we are now assessing affordability in order to provide the maximum benefit for residents and the better value for money.
“These changes will be guided by the feasibility studies undertaken and will need to be under-pinned by robust business cases, necessary for the level of investment proposed.
“There will be further engagement and consultation across the district to ensure members, residents and partner organisations are able to contribute prior to any final proposals being determined.”
The statement added: “Cllr Barry Dobson, SKDC Cabinet Member for Growth said: “I am proud to be leading this exciting piece of work. The review we have conducted will result in enhanced leisure provision across the district, providing people with the opportunity to be physically active and improve their health and wellbeing.”"