UNISON: Denbighshire must prove leisure outsourcing is in public interest

A trade union representing leisure service staff has asked Denbighshire County Council for detailed evidence to prove it has properly considered alternatives to outsourcing leisure facilities for a second time despite its earlier disastrous experience.

A special meeting of the Council tomorrow (Thursday 30 May), will vote on whether to set up a local authority trading company to run its sports centres, swimming pools and other services, including Rhyl’s Pavilion Theatre.

A previous attempt by Denbighshire Council to set up an arm-length company, Clwyd Leisure, ended in bitter rows over costs and poor standards of leisure facilities, culminating in the closure of the Rhyl Sun Centre.

UNISON Cymru Wales says it is imperative councillors are absolutely confident the business case for setting up a trading company is sound and it has published a series of questions it wants Denbighshire councillors to answer. These include, whether councillors have fully explored current powers to raise additional funding which would allow leisure services to remain in-house. The union also wants to know if things go wrong for a second time, will the taxpayer be saddled with bailing services out.

UNISON is commissioning an independent study on whether Denbighshire’s proposals represent the best interests of the community and leisure staff. When Pembrokeshire County Council proposed to outsource services in autumn 2016, UNISON commissioned an expert report from the Association for Public Service Excellence to effectively demolish the Council’s case. The conclusions were so damning, Pembrokeshire performed a u-turn, choosing to directly run leisure services.

Hugh McDyer, UNISON Cymru Wales regional organiser, said,

“Denbighshire’s Clwyd Leisure enterprise was a miserable failure. Just six years later, outsourcing is again being considered.

“Transferring local services out of democratic control denies local people a say in how services are run.

“We don’t believe councillors would support this scheme if all options had been thoroughly explored and that’s why we’re commissioning our own authoritative report into how local people can be provided with the best possible leisure facilities.

“We want to want to work with councillors and it seems sensible they pause for thought before embarking on what could prove to be another costly mistake.”

The Council vote comes just weeks after UNISON accused Denbighshire of chaotic planning in its I.T. school support, wishing to privatise services simply get them off the council balance sheet rather than assessing what is best for local people.

Notes for editors

UNISON wants Denbighshire councillors to answer the following questions: –
  • Have you explored the Authority’s current power to raise additional funding which would allow leisure services to remain in-house?
  • If things go wrong, as with Clwyd Leisure, will the taxpayer be saddled with bailing services out?
  • How will local people have a voice in shaping what Denbighshire leisure services look like in future?
  • How will leisure facility entrance costs be affected by the proposals?
  • What are the plans to expand the leisure services business after transfer to the new company?
  • Why do staff need to transfer out of council employment to the new company if it is wholly-owned by the council?



Alastair Gittins, UNISON Press Officer on 07816 538397


Photo credit: Natasha Hirst