Shropshire Star

Calls for free leisure centre offer for council staff to be dropped

Calls have been made to rescind an offer that allows council staff to use leisure facilities for free this week.

The Flash Welshpool one of Powys County Council's leisure centres run by Freedom Leisure

Powys County Council's Independent group deputy leader Councillor Graham Breeze has tabled five questions to the council leader, Councillor James Gibson-Watt and leisure portfolio holder Councillor David Selby on the issue, and wants them to condemn the week long freebie.

Freedom Leisure is a not for profit company which runs leisure services in Powys on behalf of the council.

Councillor Breeze said: “At a time when the very future of centres run across Powys by the Freedom Leisure Group is in doubt and families throughout Powys have seen leisure centre costs spiralling it is extremely disturbing to learn that Powys County Council has accepted an offer for all staff to enjoy free use of the facilities for seven days during March.

“This offer of a free seven-day pass from Freedom Leisure has been extended to all Powys County Council staff including teaching and non-teaching employees at county schools.

“It is only a few months since the portfolio holder for a more prosperous Powys (Cllr David Selby) was announcing three-month closures of certain leisure facilities operated by Freedom Leisure due to pressure for additional funding from the company.

“A decision only reversed by a public outcry and a better than expected final (financial) settlement from Welsh Government.

“Residents in my Welshpool Llanerchyddol Ward and I am sure across the whole of the county, are struggling to cope with rocketing heating and grocery bills and in recent weeks have seen the costs of using facilities at county leisure centres shoot up too.”

In his question Cllr Breeze asks: “If they consider it appropriate that a struggling organisation such as Freedom Leisure should be offering free facilities to Powys County Council staff at centres which were under threat of closure only months ago?

“If they consider it appropriate that Powys County Council staff should benefit from a seven-day free pass to use facilities which residents from all across the county are struggling to afford?

“Was the offer from Freedom Leisure discussed and approved at cabinet level or scrutinised by the council in any way?

“If the answer to question three is “No” who did approve and accept the offer?

“Will they recognise that the acceptance of free use of the facilities for Powys County Council staff was ill-conceived and will not be permitted in the future?”

Under the rules of questions at any time, Cllrs Gibson-Watt and Selby who are both Liberal Democrats have 10 working days to respond and answer the questions.

The council and Freedom Leisure have been contacted for comment.

Not-for-profit company Freedom Leisure manages more than 100 leisure and cultural venues including more than 60 swimming pools on behalf of local authority partners across England and Wales including including facilities in Wrexham County Borough Council and Swansea Council.

Its annual energy bill has risen by £8 million to £20 million and the organisation has been asking the UK Government for an energy support plan to help the leisure industry.

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