Corporate Scrutiny committee sends back plans to the Executive for sports and leisure facilities in Ellesmere Port and Northwich

Cheshire West and Chester Corporate Scrutiny Councillors have sent back to the Executive plans costing more than £25m for two sports and leisure facilities in Ellesmere Port and Northwich – to get confirmation that the procurement process delivers value for money.

A group of thirteen Opposition and Administration councillors had called in the Executive’s decision to ratify the plans at a four hours – plus debate at Corporate Scrutiny meeting on Wednesday night (15th May 2013).

Councillors recommended that; “Recognising the financial constraints, the Executive needs to demonstrate clear evidence that the procurement process followed, does offer best value for money and the best quality solution and seeks to fulfil the ambitions of the people who took part in the consultations.”

The Council wants to provide an iconic £15 million sports and leisure village for Ellesmere Port which would include an eight lane swimming pool, an eight court badminton hall, seating capacity of 1,400 and an 80 station gym.

Future expansion will also provide an indoor athletics straight and an upgrade of the all weather football pitches on the former Stanney High School site.

In Northwich the new Memorial Court would be a premier cultural and recreation venue in the east of the Borough.

This would include a six lane swimming pool, spa, 80 station gym and dance studio and a moveable floor in the learner pool to provide flexibility and to accommodate additional swimmers.

The Corporate Scrutiny meeting heard that for both schemes the Council had used the North West Construction Hub for the procurement process but the 13 councillors had concerns about this and also the timing of the consultation in relation to procurement as well as looking at different pool sizes for both schemes.

Mike Dix, Acting Head of Culture and Recreation defended the procurement route taken: “It’s not unusual for the Council, in fact it is normal process to use the framework of the Construction Hub. It is the Council’s preferred route.

“It will be the large scale companies that are normally employed through the North West Construction Hub but they also use other contractors themselves for their own tendering processes in an open book way which allows the Council to scrutinise value for money.”

Councillor Louise Gittins, Opposition spokesman for Culture and Recreation said; “We’re concerned that the procurement process hasn’t demonstrated value for money. We believe that the residents’ aspirations for a 50m pool in Ellesmere Port and an 8 lane pool in Northwich can be realised within the Council’s budget.”

Three reports by consultants – one for Ellesmere Port and Neston Council and two for Cheshire West and Chester Council – all came to the same conclusion – an eight lane 25m pool in Ellesmere Port and a six lane 25m pool for Northwich.

Councillor Stuart Parker, Executive Member for Culture and Recreation said that the Council has only a finite amount of money available:

He said: “We wish to increase participation in all other sports who also have aspirations which we would also like to support. Therefore if there was any additional money available, then we would need to give consideration to their needs as well as the wishes of the swimming clubs.

“The Amateur Swimming Association reports do acknowledge that should the Council choose to build a 50 metre pool then two pools should be closed. This is their recommendation because of over provision.

“One of them obviously in the EPIC and the other would have to be another local pool.”

The Council’s Executive will review the procurement process on June 5 and come to a conclusion on whether or not the schemes being delivered offer the best value for money at the right quality.