UNISON: ‘Leisure privatisation betrays people of Swansea’

UNISON has revealed Swansea council is to privatise leisure services, reneging on a clear promise to staff this would not happen. The trade union said local authority officials have shortlisted three private contractors to run Morriston, Penlan and Penyrheol sports centres.

UNISON has warned privatisation is a terrible error which will damage the quality of service for the public and employee’s working conditions. It has said the collapse of Carillion is a stark illustration that private companies undertaking public service contracts is extremely risky and potentially very expensive to the taxpayer.

It is understood the three private contractors are to submit bids in April 2018 with a view to one taking up the contract in October 2018.

Chris Cooze, UNISON City and County of Swansea branch secretary said,

“Under pressure from years of austerity cuts, Swansea council has panicked and gone for a short-time economic fix with a privatisation that does not benefit the local community. Outsourcing is never the answer. Private companies are interested in pound notes not quality of service to the public and experience shows when leisure centre are outsourced, charges to users increase and opening hours are reduced. When this happens there is no-one to complain to because there is no democratic accountability if leisure centres are not council run. Local people want a say in how their services operate.

“The new company will look to make quick savings by sacking or not replacing staff who leave and by squeezing employees’ wages and working conditions. That means less money in the pay packets of people in your neighbourhood and less money spent on Swansea high streets. Leisure centre staff are generally low paid young women who work around childcare and UNISON is alarmed that the new companies are likely to make wider use of exploitative zero hours contracts.

“We call upon councillors to throw out the proposed privatisation and back an in-house improvement plan which has serving the people of Swansea at its heart and decent employment conditions for leisure staff.”

Outsourcing of leisure facilities has had a troubled history and when the Vale of Glamorgan contracted out services to Parkwood Leisure, one leisure centre closed. The same company also attempted to use the legal process to block pay increases owed to leisure centre staff elsewhere in the UK.

UNISON has submitted a comprehensive document to Swansea councillors which undermines the arguments for outsourcing. The trade union has said public services must be delivered by directly employed local authority staff.

Notes for editors

UNISON City and County of Swansea branch has issued the following report to councillors, urging them to support an in-house improvement plan:



  • The service benefits Swansea people and keeps money within the Swansea area and not going to contractors shareholders.
  • the high quality services the people of Swansea people expect and deserve, Unison believes the privatisation will lead to price increases for many users.
  • maintains Democratic accountability and will not mean services could be left in the lurch as seen in the Carrilion disaster.
  • Contributes to the health and well being of our communities
  • A locally run service understands and appreciate Swansea’s culture and heritage.



  • Tourism depends on how it is presented, Leisure plays a major role in tourism, a private contractor is required to put its needs first, and Swansea’s needs will come second to the profit motivated contractor.
  • The Local Authority needs to retain control to promote Swansea it cannot do this with a private contractor.
  • Swansea Council strategic Leisure decisions needs to be reflected in its Tourism Strategy



  • Staff take pride in how they have met the challenge of the imposed austerity measures
  • Pride in how they achieved cost reductions and efficiencies whilst maintaining and developing the quality of services
  • Pride in now being ranked a high performing Council in the country
  • Pride in our committed, loyal, highly trained hard working staff who have achieved it all this and continue to do so. However UNISON believes being privatised by a Labour council who professes to be opposed to out sourcing will knock the stuffing out of them and de-motivate them.
  • Contractors promise ‘Bread Today, Jam Tomorrow’
  • Are the high associated risks worth the relatively small short term gain?



  • Assumptions that cuts will continue to be imposed, it is significant that officers are seeking a extension on the length of the contract. UNISON believes this has no benefit to Swansea only a further benefit to the contract on which contractors must be licking their lips at.
  • assumptions that business rate relief will continue
  • cuts and efficiencies continuing at a presumed rate
  • income generation continuing at a presumed rate



  • The only way is up – For increased profits for the contractor
  • The only way is down – for one of the best portfolios in the country. Contractors will still have high energy costs and staffing costs so can only develop further by reducing staff , services and increasing prices.
  • The focus will be on the needs of the Contractor rather than fulfilling the needs of staff and community.
  • In house option not about retaining the status the quo, it’s about continuing to develop. Taking pride in and investing in our services, keep the economy generating within our county, not in lining the pockets of consultants who are only ever going to be the real winners of out sourcing.
  • Council Services are best delivered directly by the Council and we urge Councillors and the Swansea Community to do all you can to oppose this privatisation.



Alastair Gittins, UNISON press officer 07816 53 83 97