Negotiations are taking place on a deal that could protect Wellingborough’s two council-owned leisure centres for the next 10 years.
Both Waendel and Redwell leisure centres are run by operator Places for People Leisure on behalf of the borough council. The current contract is due to expire, and renewing it on the same terms would commit the council to spending millions of pounds on the service over the next decade.
Talks are taking place to significantly reduce that amount, and therefore safeguard the future of the two centres. The leisure centres are something that the council is not legally obliged to provide and would find difficult to continue to finance to the same extent in the face of huge budget cuts.
One option being looked at as part of the negotiations is a reduction in the opening hours for casual users at Redwell, meaning that people will only be able to walk in to use the hall, courts and gym at certain times.
Council leader Cllr Paul Bell, said: "It’s important to say that although we are renegotiating the contract at the moment, nothing has yet been finalised.
"The option of reworking the operating times at Redwell is being considered though, as it would only have an impact on a very small number of people, and would reduce our costs significantly which means, crucially, that the future of both leisure centres would be secured long term for everyone to use.
"It would mean that staff wouldn’t need to be on duty for the whole day on the off chance that someone wanted to use the facilities. It wouldn’t affect block bookings or exercise classes, and casual daytime gym users could be transferred to the Waendel leisure centre.
"As with any potential change there will always be a level of inconvenience and concern, but if we do go ahead with this option as part of new contract, I am confident that the vast majority of people who currently use Redwell leisure centre could continue to do so, and most of those affected would be accommodated either under different arrangements or at the other site. We’re very lucky to have two council-owned and subsidised leisure centres in the town and I am hopeful we can work out a contract that keeps them open, and successful, over the coming years."
The council is still negotiating terms of the new leisure contract and is looking at various options across both sites, but anyone affected by changes such as alterations to opening times will be informed as early as possible.