THE firm picked to run New Forest’s health and leisure centres will be revealed next week.
New Forest District Council has chosen the private company which will take over the running of its five health and leisure centres, and are set to meet its representatives and unions on Monday.
The council will then inform staff and those who run clubs at the sites, meaning the firm will likely be publicly unveiled next week.
The news was revealed at the latest meeting of the council’s HR committee yesterday (Thursday) in the wake of two NFDC Liberal Democrat members – Cllrs Caroline Rackham and Mark Clark – resigning from a working group tasked with overseeing the private company takeover.
They are against the outsourcing and claim the Conservative-run council has not listened to the public in inviting tenders for a contract to run the centres – at Lymington, New Milton, Ringwood, Applemore and Totton – for at least 10 years.
Since it first announced its intention to bring in private management, the issue has provoked objections from opposition councillors, protests and a petition attracting thousands of signatures.
But NFDC cabinet member Cllr Michael Harris told the HR committee the Conservative-controlled authority was “excited” by the prospective impact the preferred bidder will have.
“What is about to come is really exciting,” he said. “The entire NFDC team has done an amazing job given the difficulty of what they are doing full stop – let alone that it’s during a national pandemic, the worst for the past 100 years; it’s remarkable and the result is really, really exciting.”
Council leader, Cllr Barry Rickman agreed. “When we eventually start to lift out of this [pandemic] health and leisure – and especially health – is going to be so important in people’s lives.”
The HR committee was told the identity of the preferred bidder cannot be revealed yet as the process is in what is known as the “standing stage” until today (Friday). This gives the two bidders not chosen the chance to ask questions about the decision.
It was also revealed the managers of the five leisure centres had travelled with NFDC officers and toured centres which the chosen bidder had previously taken over from a local authority.