Stop multi-million pound bail-outs of leisure services in Kirklees, says union

A union has called for Kirklees Council to “do the right thing” and bring its swimming pools and other leisure services back in-house.

Wednesday, 4th August 2021, 11:30 am
The headquarters of Kirklees Active Leisure at the John Smith’s Stadium, Huddersfield

It follows a decision by council chiefs in Kirklees to authorise a bail-out of up to £3.5m to shore up Kirklees Active Leisure (KAL), the organisation that manages the authority’s leisure services across the borough.

The latest rescue plan follows on from another last summer, when the council handed over £4m.

Now officials with the GMB Union – who warned that last year’s bail-out would not be the last – have said enough is enough. They want out-sourcing to stop.

Andrew Aldwinkle, GMB organiser, said assurances of a one-off rescue payment did not carry any weight.

He said: “The GMB Union called upon Kirklees Council to bring KAL back in-house and run the service directly after they bailed them out to the tune of £4m in 2020.

“At the time I told the council that KAL senior management would be coming back for more and, despite assurances from the council that this was a one-off payment, unfortunately that has now happened with another £3.5m bail-out.”

He added: “The KAL model has failed, and it is now time for the whole service to be run as a public service with management coming directly from Kirklees Council.

“The council has a statutory duty to provide leisure services for the people of Kirklees and as we have told Kirklees on many occasions, ‘You can outsource services, but you cannot outsource responsibility'.

“It is now time for the council to do the right thing for the people of Kirklees and bring the service back in-house.”

A charitable trust, KAL runs 12 leisure facilities in the borough including swimming pools, which are used by thousands of schoolchildren.

However its £16m annual turnover was hugely affected by national lockdown measures last year, leading to fears about the body’s operating position, financial sustainability and risk of insolvency.

That prompted the council to step in.

Not to have done so ran the risk of leaving KAL “vulnerable” and “with the likelihood that some sites may have had to close anyway, and possibly lead to the demise of KAL”.