by timpickstone on 27 November, 2012
On Wednesday (28 November) I will be attending the Council’s Cabinet meeting which is considering a report on Bury’s ‘Civic Halls’. These are the four venues which are operated by the Council (Ramsbottom, Bury, Radcliffe and our own Longfield Suite here in Prestwich).
The four venues currently do not ‘pay for themselves’ commercially – making a loss (after all the councl’s overheads are taken into account) of over Â£1/2 million in 2011-12.
Nearly 18 months ago the Council commissioned an independent review by the private consultants Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC). They have made a number of recommendations on how the useage of the suites could be improved. There are basically three options for what could happen to the suites in the future:
– continue as now run by the Council
– running them through some sort of outsourcing or partnership
– closing them
The decision that is recommended for the meeting on Wednesday is that:
– we implement the action plan that is recommended by PWC
– the Council seems to think that outsourcing to an independent provider is ‘not an option’, but that ‘partnering’ might be
– interestingly the report says that closure ‘is not an option AT THIS STAGE’
It is proposed that the action plan is implemented and then the Cabinet makes a further decision after 18 months so the Cabinet meeting would be immediately AFTER the next set of local elections in May 2014. Am I the only one to be suspicious about what the plans are here?
My personal view is that we need to have good community facilities. For Prestwich we have this in the Longfield Suite, but it really needs investment to bring it up to date to and fit for the 21st century. We do live in tough economic times, so whilst the Council is right to try new ways to attract new business, I think the Council is wrong to refuse to even consider whether outsourcing to an independent provider (either not-for-profit or commercial) would provide a better service at less cost to tax payers.
The full report to the Executive and the PWC report are on the agenda for the Cabinet which is here.
All views appreciated!