THE closure of the Oasis Leisure Centre has sparked anger among Labour councillors.

Operator GLL and landlord Seven Capital dropped the bombshell on Tuesday, saying the iconic facility at North Star has no viable future.

But those in opposition to Swindon Borough Council's ruling Conservatives pointed out the move comes after hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money was handed to GLL. It is the charitable social enterprise behind the customer-facing brand Better.

When the council outsourced running leisure facilities across the borough to GLL, it paid the charity £2m in a reverse premium to encourage it to take on running the Health Hydro in Milton Road.

Last year it agreed to pay GLL £1.5m to fund repairs and payments of £125,000 a year for five years until 2024 to help subsidise the operating costs. That’s a figure of £625,000 over the five years.

Labour group leader Jim Grant said: “This whole situation has resulted from decisions made by the Conservative council in relation to its privatising of the leisure facilities. When they handed the Oasis to GLL they said the transfer would secure the long-term future of the site.

“Given that the three years since the contract was signed can hardly be defined as long term we are seeking assurances from the council that the original contract contained provision for a leisure centre to continue on site if circumstances such as these arose.

"If there was no such provision then the council is as much to blame for the closure as GLL.

“During those three years the Conservative council has subsidised GLL to the tune of £3m towards the running of their leisure provision across the town . It has slashed services for the elderly, the young and vulnerable while subsidising a private firm to pay for the very thing they sold off the leisure services for in the first place.”

Coun Grant said the council should ask for its subsidy back.

“Given that GLL have now pulled out of the Oasis the council needs to ask for that £3m back," he said. "If it doesn’t it will be betraying the council taxpayers of Swindon

“The council should obtain guarantees from GLL that all the other leisure facilities in the town – the Link Centre, Milton Road baths, Croft – remain viable and are not also under threat of closure.”

A spokesman for GLL said the taxpayers’ money was specifically for running the Milton Road baths, a Grade II* listed building and nothing to do with Oasis or the other five leisure facilities it runs across town.

They said: “"GLL has a contract with Swindon Council to operate six leisure centres in the town and a totally unrelated and separate contract with Seven Capital to manage the Oasis Leisure Centre.

"Seven Capital holds a long-term lease for the Oasis Leisure Centre and is GLL’s landlord, not Swindon Council.

“The subsidy we received from the council is solely to support the refurbishment and operation of Health Hydro, specifically because of its listed status and the amount of work needed to maintain such an historic building.”

Tory council leader David Renard dismissed Coun Grant’s complaint.

He said: “When the council contracted with GLL to run its leisure centres they all needed capital investment, and they all needed a subsidy. GLL took them on without the council paying extra in capital and without a subsidy for all of them except the Health Hydro. It was the right decision to take then, and I still think it’s the right decision now.

“That has been a huge benefit to the taxpayer and also the council – with the growth in demand for social care there has been less and less money to spend on leisure.

“The Health Hydro is a special case owing to its listed status and its legacy issues and the difficulty with the building. GLL could have walked away after the five-year lease but they have stayed with it and are working with us to make best use of the building and restore it.

“The contact GLL has with Seven Capital as the landlord of the Oasis centre is nothing to do with the council – so I think the subsidy for the Health Hydro is not relevant in this case.”