Controversy as Islington leisure contract given to new company

The Sobell Centre

The Sobell Centre - Credit: Archant

Unions are “appalled and dismayed” by Islington Council’s decision to reward a multi-million pound contract to run its sports facilities to a new company.

Holloway-based charity Aquaterra, who’ve been in charge of the borough’s leisure facilities since 1997, have cried foul over the way the 15-year contract has been awarded.

They lost out to rival GLL following a long bidding war but claim the decision, leaked to the Gazette last week and finalised at a meeting of Islington council’s ruling executive on last night, lacked transparency.

The company may take legal action and has urged the town hall to put the ruling on hold.

In a letter to councillors UNISON’s Islington branch attacked the contract length and argued it should be brought back in house.

The letter said: “Islington UNISON is appalled and dismayed that the Aquaterra contract is to be awarded to GLL for 15 years.

“We believe this is far too long but more importantly we believe that the contract should have been brought back in house.

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“The same way in which Homes for Islington and Enterprise have been.”

Chair of Aquaterra board of trustees Neil Best attended the meeting and asked councillors to defer their decision.

In a statement following the meeting he said: “The Board of Trustees are extremely disappointed that the Council’s Executive Members have not chosen to defer their decision and fully review the procurement procedure.

“We are not confident that there was complete transparency during the procurement process which has led to the executive appointing another leisure provider in Islington without consideration of all of the pertinent information and due consideration of the impact on Islington’s residents.

“Aquaterra are exploring all options at this time and await the council’s full explanation for its decision.”

While all leisure centre staff will have their jobs transferred to GLL, the same guarantee may not be given to Aquaterra’s 50 head office staff, many of whom are Islington residents, sparking fears of redundancies.

Cllr Richard Watts, leader of Islington Council, said: “We don’t change leisure contracts lightly but I do think that the opportunities presented to us are such that it would be wrong to turn it down.”

He added: “We are looking at the future and being positive.”