Birmingham City Council leader Sir Albert Bore has been accused of “passing the buck” over proposals to sell or close the city’s leisure services .
Opposition Lib Dem leader Paul Tilsley believes that the city’s ten districts have been handed a poisoned chalice – to decide which of their leisure centres or pools should be closed, contracted out or cut back.
Labour council leader Sir Albert has announced a major review of sports centres in the city in a bid to head off a projected £6.9 million budget shortfall.
His announcement included proposals to draw in more health service funding by rebranding sports halls as “Wellbeing Centres” and putting them on the frontline of the battle against obesity.
But he also refused to rule out closures, sales and contracting out to private sector or community groups to run.
The decisions on what happens to each centre will be taken by the ten district committees.
Coun Tilsley (Sheldon), the former council deputy leader, said: “Sir Albert seems to be telling the districts that ‘we have devolution, here are the cuts, you make them’. It is classic buck-passing. The centre should be making those cuts.”
But the former council deputy leader recognised that fresh thinking was needed and pointed out his administration pioneered contracting out leisure facilities with the loss-making golf courses and Harborne Pool.
“We have got to keep these facilities open, it may well be with the private sector involved, but they must stay open,” he warned.
Conservative chairman of Edgbaston district committee Bruce Lines said that while they balanced the books on leisure centres other districts had over-spent.
Last year there was a £3 million overspend and this is expected to more than double.
He said: “Three million is a small amount compared to the entire council budget, it could be managed. On the other side the districts should have better managed their budgets.”
He added: “Harborne Pool shows the way forward, not only do DC leisure run it for the council, but they pay the council.”