HL Deb 01 July 1988 vol 498 cc1877-9WA
Lord Teviot

asked Her Majesty's Government:

If they will announce their decisions following the recent consultation exercise on the proposals to bring competition to the management of local authority sport and leisure facilities.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (The Earl of Caithness)

My right honourable friends the Secretaries of State for the Environment, for Wales and for Scotland have considered very carefully the wide-ranging responses to consultation. They have decided that the competitive tendering regime provided for in Part I of the Local Government Act 1988 should be applied to the management of sport and leisure facilities.

We will therefore lay an order under Section 2(3) of the Act to make the management of sport and leisure facilities a defined activity for the purposes of the Act. Before laying the order we shall undertake the consultation on it provided for by Section 2(4) of the Act.

The competitive tendering regime should yield greater value for money from local authority expenditure on sport and recreation through more effective management and marketing of facilities and a greater sensitivity to the needs of the community. At the same time, we have recognised the main concerns raised by consultees. As a result, subject to consultation on the terms of the order, we propose:

  1. (a) To exempt from compulsory competition the management of all sports facilities provided or made available for community use under Section 53 (whether alone or in conjunction with Section 41) of the Education Act 1944, and, in Scotland, under Section 6 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980. This applies to facilities at primary and secondary schools and further education establishments. This exemption from compulsory competition would also apply to facilities which are termed "dual-use" and "joint use" facilities and to community centres in Scotland;
  2. (b) Not to limit or restrict local authorities' existing discretionary powers over pricing, admission and opening hours policies under Section 19 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 and Section 16(1) of the Local Government and Planning (Scotland) Act 1982.
These decisions should help to ensure that significant further progress is made towards maximising the use of educational facilities provided by ratepayers and taxpayers, and that disadvantaged groups and promising young sportsmen and women continue to have every opportunity to make use of sport and leisure facilities.

We propose that compulsory competition should apply to a range of facilities provided by local authorities under Section 19 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 and, in Scotland, under Section 15(2) of the Local Government and Planning (Scotland) Act 1982. Those facilities would include sports centres, leisure centres, swimming pools, leisure pools, golf courses, bowling greens, putting greens, tennis courts, athletics tracks, pitches for team games and other games, cycle tracks, water sports and leisure facilities whether inland or coastal, artificial and natural ski slopes, skating rinks, indoor bowling facilities. Community or village halls, where sport is a secondary or minor activity, would not be included.

We also propose that the management function should include taking bookings; collection of and accounting for fees and charges; cleaning and day to day maintenance of buildings, grounds, sports surfaces, plant and equipment; supervising activities (e.g., lifeguards at swimming pools); providing instruction in the sport and recreational activities offered; catering and the provision of refreshments; provision and hire of sports equipment; paying for heating, lighting and other service charges, marketing and promotion of the facilities; employment and relevant training of staff to undertake these duties.

There is some overlap between this management function and other activities already included in the 1988 Act. Under Section 2(5) of that Act authorities will be free to decide whether the catering, cleaning and ground maintenance aspects of the management function are best treated as part of sport and leisure management or as part of those other activities. It would also be for local authorities to decide whether tender specifications for the management of their sport and leisure facilities should be drawn up on an individual facility basis or otherwise.

As regards the implementation timetable, we appreciate the concern of many local authorities and the private sector about the potential difficulties of bringing competition to this activity in addition to the activities on the face of the Act. We accept that authorities and the private sector need time to prepare for this aspect of competition. Consequently we propose that all counties, non-metropolitan districts, parish councils, local authority joint committees and Scottish local authorities will have to have exposed the management of their facilities to competition by 1.1.1992; that half of the London boroughs, and half of the metropolitan districts will have to have done so by 1.8.1992, and that the remainder of the London boroughs and metropolitan districts will have to have done so by 1.1.1993.

We further propose that those London boroughs and metropolitan districts included in Groups 1, 2 and 3 of the department's "Implementation of Competition" letter issued to all chief executives on 30th March should comprise the authorities which will be required to introduce competition to their sport and leisure facilities by 1.8.1992; and that those authorities in Groups 4, 5 and 6 of that letter should do so by 1.1.1993.

A separate announcement is being made about the proposed implementation timetable for Wales.

We appreciate and welcome the desire of some local authorities to press on voluntarily with competition in this activity in advance of the necessary legislative provision. We hope that, in advance of the necessary consultation on the terms of the order, the information set out above is helpful to those authorities. We aim to begin consultation on a draft order before the turn of the year.

Finally, copies of the responses we received to the consultation paper on this matter, which was issued in September 1987, have been placed in the Library.