May 01 2013

Harrow Council set to Approve New Library and Leisure Contracts


booksforkids1-150x150Library services will be made secure for the future and improvements will be made to Harrow Leisure Centre if Harrow Council’s Cabinet approves the new delivery of library and leisure management services and a £1.7m investment in the Leisure Centre at a meeting next month (9th May).

Harrow Council is expected to agree to jointly commission library and leisure services with neighbouring boroughs Brent and Ealing. This means John Laing Integrated Services Ltd, a not for profit trust, will deliver library services for Harrow and Ealing while Sports and Leisure Management Ltd (SLM) will deliver leisure services for Harrow, Ealing and Brent. By working in partnership with our neighbouring boroughs, Harrow Council will deliver value for money for its council tax payers by saving £745,000 a year.

The joint contract will increase the number of library and leisure users and ensure a high quality service. There will also be a £1.7m investment to improve Harrow Leisure Centre, with the latest gym equipment, new gym changing facilities and an improved reception area. The new libraries contract will also ensure that Harrow Council retains control of all decisions regarding the service. The new libraries contract will also make sure that the book budget can only ever be spent on books.

Each borough has to approve the plans before anything can be agreed. Harrow is the first to consider the plans on May 9th, before Brent and Ealing reach their decisions two weeks later.

The council wants to get the very best out of the new contractors and has ensured that they will provide a high standard service at a lower cost. They will be required to increase satisfaction rates amongst library and leisure centre users and increase the amount of people using them. The targets will be checked regularly and if at least 90 per cent of the targets are not met, the new contractors will have to forfeit a percentage of the annual management fee.

Furthermore, the new partnerships will offer up opportunities for apprenticeships, work placements and jobs for borough residents through the use of local suppliers.

The contract with the leisure services will be for 10 years and the contract for libraries services for five years, with the potential to extend for a further five years. It is proposed they will both begin on 1st September 2013. Over the whole of the five-year contract for libraries and 10-year contract for leisure across the three boroughs, savings would be expected to total £20million.

Councillor David Perry Harrow Council’s Portfolio Holder for Community and Cultural Services, said: “Harrow Council is committed to providing the best possible leisure and library facilities for its residents. Ensuring that libraries and leisure centres continue to provide high standards is a top priority for the council and this new partnership will protect our services for the future, even though the council is facing unprecedented financial pressure.”

Conservative Group Leader Cllr. Susan Hall said: “Cllr. Perry can try to defend his decision all he wants, but the fact is that he and Labour have broken their promise not to privatise Harrow’s libraries. Labour said three times in their manifesto that they wouldn’t do it, and now they have. If Cllr. Perry does indeed become the next Leader of the Council, how can residents expect to trust him and his Labour colleagues if they are prepared to break what seemed to be an unbreakable promise? I’m also very concerned at the length of these contracts. At 5 and 10 years respectively for the library and the leisure contracts, Labour’s decision will essentially bind future administrations to the deals they’ve made.”

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