Row over contract for leisure centre

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Buckingham’s Swan Pool and Leisure Centre could be under new management in the new financial year, after the current operators failed to win the contract.

Aylesbury Vale Community Trust (AVTC) has managed the Swan Pool and Aylesbury’s Aqua Vale since the trust was set up in January 2009 with the support of Aylesbury Vale District Council (AVDC).

The trust has supported several local community and charity events at the Swan. In October it donated the facilities for a Marathon Sport Challenge in aid of Padbury-based Brain Tumour Research.

In the past year, the trust has given financial support to four elite athletes, including Buckingham’s Olympic swimmer, Craig Gibbons, as well as making its facilities available to a further five elite athletes to support their training regimes.

It had recently secured £335,000 from Sport England for internal improvements to the Swan and Aqua Vale.

Just before Christmas, the trust was told it had been unsuccessful in re-tendering for the management contract for the two venues.

But this week the decision to award the contract to another bidder, SLM, has been ‘called in’ by a cross-party group of district councillors.

The decision will now have to be examined by AVDC’s finance and services scrutiny committee.

District councillor for Winslow, Llew Monger, said: “There is a decree of unease across the chamber about this. It’s an important issue for the communities in Aylesbury and the Buckingham area and it’s important that the time is taken to look at it closely.”

District councillor for Buckingham South, Robin Stuchbury, said: “I feel it is only right this goes through a period of scrutiny which it had not gone through prior to the decision because of the financial and prejudicial interests in a tendering process and the necessity to have closed bids.”

Trust chairman Miles Buckinghamshire said: “We do not believe that the decision they have made is in the best interests of the customers of the leisure centres.”

AVDC director Matt Partridge said: “The tender documentation for the contract set out the criteria against which tenders would be considered and the procedure which would be followed in the appointment of the new contractor. It is the council’s view that it has adhered to those criteria and that procedure.

“The trust have raised a number of issues in a letter received on December 28, and the council will be responding to these as soon as it is reasonably able to do so.”