Neath Port Talbot Council workers are calling on the local authority to take direct control of local leisure services to ensure the community has the best possible facilities as they emerge from lockdown.
The contract with current provider, Celtic Leisure, finishes in September and the council has started looking for another provider for the next 25 years, instead of running leisure services itself.
The local branch of UNISON has today (Wednesday) launched a campaign for leisure services to be operated by the council and it has assembled local MPs, Christina Rees and Stephen Kinnock and Senedd Members, David Rees and Jeremy Miles in support.
UNISON’s encouraging the local community to sign its online petition, which goes live today.
The trade union says as pandemic restrictions are eased, the area’s leisure facilities will be extremely important in helping people’s mental and physical health. It argues these services will be a huge opportunity for income generation for the local authority, money which should be reinvested for the good of Neath Port Talbot people and not removed as private profit.
Mark Fisher, UNISON NPT branch chair, said,
“We call on Neath Port Talbot councillors to bring leisure services back into the ownership of the communities they serve. Local people need a say in how their leisure centres are operated and that means the council running them directly.
“Taxpayers are funding the development of an exciting leisure centre in Neath town centre and the new facilities for Pontardawe, Aberavon and the Gwyn Hall. It wouldn’t be right for the buildings to then be outsourced to the private sector to claim all the profits. We want every penny generated, reinvested to improve community leisure services, not disappearing into private pockets.”
Jane Gebbie, UNISON NPT branch secretary said,
“Leisure is a jewel in the service provision across the county borough, with a dedicated and committed workforce. Their experience during Celtic Leisure’s tenure is a warning about what could happen when an outside business is brought in which doesn’t have local people’s interests at heart. Senior managers awarded themselves big pay rises whilst trying to reduce the pay and working conditions of their staff.
“Welsh Government’s preferred option for service provision is that of ‘publicly-owned and publicly-funded’. It’s disgraceful that not all options of ownership are being considered by Neath Port Talbot Council. We urge people to get behind UNISON’s campaign and sign our petition.”
Christina Rees MP for Neath, said,
“Neath Port Talbot Council has delivered public services to the people of my constituency during the most challenging circumstances that this pandemic has thrown up, and shown the tremendous benefits of public service provision in our communities. Therefore, I would support bringing leisure services back in-house in a manner that is economically viable, sustainable, good value for customers, and protects the terms and conditions of the workforce.”
Stephen Kinnock MP for Aberavon, said,
“Over the last twelve months we have seen what can be achieved when the strength of our public services is combined with the power of our community spirit, and the pandemic has also highlighted the vital importance of our physical and mental well-being as the basis of Aberavon being fit for the future.
“Leisure services will play a crucial role building our health and well-being as we emerge from this crisis, and I welcome the fact that our council is now looking at options for future provision. It is absolutely right that the option of bringing leisure services back in-house is included in the council’s considerations because it is the option that can best deliver stability, sustainability, value for money, excellent customer service, and fair terms and conditions for the workforce.”
David Rees MS for Aberavon, said,
“During this pandemic we have seen the essential role that our local authority teams have played in delivering public services. As we move forward the need to offer services to improve both the physical and mental health of local people becomes a priority and the best way to ensure that this is achieved is by bringing these services back in-house so that they form part of the public service provision delivered by our local authority; offering decent conditions and pay to the employees and high quality service to people.”
Jeremy Miles MS for Neath, said,
“I would strongly support proposals to bring leisure services back in-house in a way which is sustainable for the future, offers a range of great leisure services to the public and delivers good terms and conditions for the workforce. This would be a really positive development in how we react to the challenges of Covid and it would make sure that key services are there for us all, publicly delivered for the future”.
Notes to editors
- Neath Port Talbot UNISON Branch call on Neath Port Talbot Council to bring their Leisure Services back in-house, after outsourcing it to Celtic Leisure for 20 years.
- A link to UNISON’s online petition can be found here
- The current contract with provider, Celtic Leisure, comes to an end on 31 September 2021
- UNISON is the largest trade union in NPTCBC and Celtic Leisure
Mark Fisher, UNISON NPT branch chair, 07971 255 130 firstname.lastname@example.org
Jane Gebbie, UNISON NPT branch secretary, 07508 643 052 email@example.com
Alastair Gittins, UNISON Cymru Wales press officer, 07816 53 83 97