City leisure chiefs have been accused of hatching privatisation plans for Birmingham’s municipal golf courses to disguise years of mismanagement.
More than 30 bidders, including some gold professionals, are fighting each other to take control of the city’s seven courses, which lost nearly £700,000 last year.
But the decision to invite tenders was slammed by Sir Albert Bore, leader of the city council opposition Labour group.
Sir Albert (Lab Ladywood) said a “disastrous” decision to dramatically increase the cost of golf in Birmingham meant the courses were bound to lose money.
Green fees were increased two years ago as council bosses sought to stem growing losses, but the number of rounds played slumped dramatically.
Sir Albert added: “Because of disastrous mismanagement, we are now in the position of having to go and ask the private sector to make good the damage that’s been done.”
He warned that jobs at the city’s grounds maintenance depot were likely to disappear when the courses were taken over.
His claims were rejected by deputy city council leader Paul Tilsley, who blamed the decline in municipal golf on competition from more than 70 private courses in and around Birmingham. Wet summers also hit takings, he added.
Labour’s years in control of the city council left the municipal courses and club houses starved of investment, Coun Tilsley (Lib Dem Sheldon) claimed.
Outdated facilities meant the public could not always enjoy the “social aspect” of golf when playing in Birmingham, he added.
One of the city courses, Hilltop, is currently enjoying a 100 per cent subsidy from council taxpayers.
City leader Mike Whitby stressed the courses would only be handed to a private operator if that meant a good deal for Birmingham golfers.
He added: “Let no one be under any misapprehension, there will still be municipal golf course, but they will be run by a partner.”
Interested private operators will be shortlisted by July, with the council cabinet likely to award a contract by April next year.