Cabinet members have agreed to bring Neath Port Talbot Council’s leisure services back under the council’s management (in-house).
A decision to outsource was taken in 2002 leading to the not-for-profit trust Celtic Leisure being appointed to run leisure services in 2003.
In recent years other councils, including Cardiff and Powys, have handed leisure centres over to not-for-profit operators in response to austerity measures.
There was a “lot of nerves” among members of staff at Nethe Port Tlabot leisure centres this morning ahead of the council meeting.
Reacting to the news, facilities manager at Neath Sports Centre, Mike Bendyk, said: “I would like to thank the councillors at Neath Port Talbot and the cabinet for making the decision.
“It secures the long-term future of all the staff in leisure services. It takes a lot of stress and anxiety off their minds knowing that they still have a job.”
Mike, who is also a Unison steward, added that he thinks the decision will benefit more than just members of staff.
He said: “For the people of Neath Port Talbot, this will benefit them widely and they can have first-class facilities at an affordable price.”
The Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council, Cllr. Ted Latham said: “There are a number of advantages to bringing these facilities back to in-house and this decision will enable us to continue supporting many more people to live healthier lives.
“The council will have full control of leisure centres and other facilities, enabling us to determine the approach to opening hours, service delivery, fees and charges to ensure our leisure offer is focused on helping reduce inequality and improving the health of residents. There will also be benefits to existing staff who will have the security of transferring into the council’s employment.
“Also, leisure services can be jointly marketed and operated alongside other local tourist and leisure offers to ensure a joined up approach, contributing to our objective of establishing Neath Port Talbot as a place people want to visit.”
A report published in 2020 said the council would search for a new leisure service provider after an assessment was made on Celtic Leisure’s “value for money”.
There were delays to the final decision and councillors were given a chance to properly consider all the options available, which included awarding the contract to a private operator; taking the services back in house; and continuing the current contract with Celtic Leisure until its expiry in 2025.
IT manager at Celtic Leisure, Darren Morgan, said: “The delay really helped to investigate the extra avenues. It is absolutely amazing. It is such a positive thing.
Following the Cabinet decision, council officers will now work with Celtic Leisure to facilitate an in-house leisure service and undertake the necessary consultation work.
A report will be brought to members setting out proposed arrangements that will be necessary to establish a council controlled leisure service – the report will include the outcome of any public consultation for members to determine.
Cllr Ted Latham added: “We now look forward to bringing our leisure services back in-house with the aim of increasing participation by our residents in sport and physical activity, encouraging people to become more active to improve their health and wellbeing.”
The Cabinet decision is subject to a three-day call in period.