Radical Shake-Up of Library and Leisure Services

Ealing agrees to 'contract out' provision

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A major reconfiguration of the borough's library and leisure services has been given the go-ahead.

The shake-up could see Ealing sharing services with Brent and Harrow.

Brent cabinet approved the plans on Monday and Ealing gave the green light last night (Tuesday 21 May). Harrow is expected to consider the plans next month. All three councils have to approve before the plan is progressed.

The scheme is one of the largest of its type to date, combining library services in two of the boroughs, and leisure services in all three. It's believed the partnerships could save around £20million.

What will it mean?

The Council say (if all three councils agree the plans) a charitable trust, linked to private company SLM* will be appointed to run leisure services in the three boroughs for the next 10 years.

Northolt Leisure Centre and Perivale Park Track would be managed by SLM from June 2013 and Acton Town Hall Leisure Centre from May 2014. In 2018 Gurnell Leisure Centre, Dormers Wells Leisure Centre and Swift Road Outdoor Sport Centre would be added to the contract.

If the plans are approved, JL Integrated Services a not-for-profit trust within John Laing plc will run library services in Ealing and Harrow for five years. The council will continue to consider approaches from community groups interested in volunteering to run some local libraries. Brent’s libraries are not included in the contract.

Ealing Council will retain control of all decisions regarding the services including setting the opening hours and deciding what books to buy. The new contractors will have to meet a number of strict criteria and targets to make sure they provide a high standard of service. The council wants more people to use the services as well as increase customer satisfaction.

The plans were first discussed in 2010 when the three boroughs recognised the potential to make considerable savings by working together.

Ealing Unison are unhappy with the proposals describing the plan as privatisation which will reduce the standard of service for the public and worsen the terms and conditions for staff.

Councillor Julian Bell, leader of Ealing Council, said: “Securing local services is one of our key priorities and we want to make sure they are the best they can be. This new partnership will not only ensure that our libraries and leisure centres are protected for the future, but that they will also continue to provide quality services.

“The three participating boroughs have a combined population of more than 800,000 people and the contractors know they will have to work hard to maintain a good service for all.”

Councillor Gary Malcolm, Liberal Democrat Group Leader said:

'' I agree with the proposals as the mean that no libraries will close and they will be run by not for profit organisations. As long as they stay open and for a suitable (at least the current number) of hours then in the short term that is good. The crucial factor is whether Ealing Council make a real active effort to publicise and get people to use libraries which can be a great resource for many whether they be people looking for work, students or those just reading for enjoyment or for research purposes.''

Councillor David Millican, Conservative Group Leader, said:

"After the furore of a couple of years ago, when the Labour Council proposed shutting four libraries, I have called on the Council for a cast iron guarantee that there will be no reduction in service and no closures. The small print in the council's report allows the council to make a "reduction in base line service provision". At the Cabinet meeting, the Labour Councillors specifically would not commit to there being no reduction in opening hours for leisure or library services.  That's not good enough.  The Conservatives will be watching carefully to ensure that there are no closures and no reduction in service."


Confirmation of the award of the contract is subject to the call-in period on decisions at the councils.

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* SLM is a private company with an associated trust. It is one of the UK’s largest operators of leisure centres with 28 local authority contracts including the London Borough of Havering, Bristol City Council and Cambridge City Council.




May 22nd 2013