PROPOSALS to lease the town’s leisure and golf facilities moved a step forward on Wednesday night when Swindon Council’s cabinet agreed to put the plan to full council.
Following a consultation process it emerged last week that Greenwich Leisure Limited will run leisure services, while Twigmarket will take over Broome Manor and Highworth Golf, a move the council hopes will save £1.4m a year in subsidies. The leisure facilities will be subject to a 25-year lease while Broome Manor is on a 75-year lease.
While the opposition says it broadly supports the leisure move, Labour councillors say they have objections to the golf facilities being leased out as it is still possible to make money from them.
Initially Moredon Golf was included in the lease but, because it struggles to make a profit, it was later removed. As a result Labour believes golf is now an attractive prospect for the council.
Councillor Jim Robbins (Lab, Mannington and Western), the shadow member for leisure, said: “There is a lot we are pleased about in the lease appraisal.
“There was talk of 99-year leases on leisure facilities, so we like that they are down and there are longer ‘keep-open’ clauses. Labour lobbied hard on that so it is good to see.
“Where we do have worries is with the golf facilities. Now that Moredon has been removed it leaves Broome Manor and Highworth, which are in fact close to breaking even.
“There has been investment at Broome Manor so it would not take much more to have them turning a profit. If this is the case then there is no need for either of the facilities to be passed over to the private sector.
“One argument is the companies are in a position to invest, but when you look at the rest of the council programme, such as the broadband proposal, then there is money available to improve facilities if we really want to.”
The council says one of the most attractive elements of the deal is it will make money from the lease.
The lead member for leisure services, Coun Keith Williams (Con, Shaw), said: “With the leisure aspect there will be a saving as we will no longer be paying a subsidy. There is currently no subsidy with the golf but through this deal we will get some money, dependent on performance.
“Twigmarket has the expertise in running golf courses as we have seen, so there is a lot they can bring to both Broome Manor and Highworth.
“Most of all they bring investment. Breaking even is one thing but Twigmarket have said they will invest, which many would say is a good thing.”
The proposals go before full council on July 17.