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Stirling Council set to award 25-year fitness contract

Sports and Leisure Management expected to take over from Active Stirling in April.

Workout: Around 1500 people have signed petition against change (file pic).
Workout: Around 1500 people have signed petition against change (file pic). PA Images

Stirling Council is set to award provision of its sports and fitness services to a new contractor despite objections from locals and SNP councillors.

If approved by the full council, Sports and Leisure Management Limited (SLM) will take over from Active Stirling in April.

The council said SLM, which operates more than 100 leisure and cultural facilities across England, was found to offer best value and the highest quality of service in a procurement process last year.

The new £25m contract is set to run for 25 years, although there will be provisions for the local authority to end the agreement at any point.

According to the council, the contract will bring savings of £2m in its first five years with money saved being reinvested in services.

The local authority claims the length of the contract will "encourage a lasting partnership that is ambitious, innovative and aspirational".

A special meeting set for Thursday will discuss the outcome of the procurement process ahead of a vote on the final decision.

The council has promised that all Active Stirling staff will retain their jobs and be protected by employment legislation.

This would also apply to self-employed instructors who run classes for the service.

Prices for use will not change because of the process, the council said.

In a statement, the council added: "The provision and development of community sports and leisure provision across the Stirling area has been a key focus of this process.

"This is about providing the best possible sports, physical activity and wellbeing service and opportunities for all our people.

"While it will be business as usual for Stirling's sports and wellbeing venues initially, we expect to see improved facilities and new opportunities across the area during the contract period."

Active Stirling last year celebrated its tenth anniversary and many locals have expressed concerns on social media about replacing it.

A petition calling for the council to renew its contract with Active Stirling had attracted 1500 signatories by Wednesday.

SNP councillors are set to vote against the proposals, saying the move would hand over the authority's sports services to a private operator.

Councillor Scott Farmer, SNP council group leader, said: "People across the Stirling area will be baffled that the Tories and Labour are rounding off their time together in administration by going hand-in-hand in privatising crucial services such as sports and leisure.

"At the beginning of this process, senior Labour councillors gave false assurances that the tendering process would not lead to privatisation. Now they are proposing that they grant a 25-year contract to a private firm to run what is currently operated by a partner organisation. This is a real threat to the value-for-money service people currently receive.

"The SNP Group that I lead cannot accept this proposal and we will not back the Tory-ideological privatisation of services that Labour seem all too keen to support. I call on Labour councillors to think again - their current privatisation agenda will not be forgiven by residents of the Stirling area."

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