New Vale leisure centre arrangements: Questions need answers
8:10am Thursday 30th August 2012 in Letters
ON August 1, the Vale of Glamorgan Council outsourced the running of Penarth Leisure Centre to Parkwood Ltd. Under a long-term contract, the centre is to be refurbished and new facilities installed.
At the moment, the supportive and highly professional team of instructors who work at the centre are being kept on for at least the next 16 weeks, but the future beyond that is uncertain.
I am an 80-year-old Penarth resident and for the past two years I have been attending referral classes at the gym three times a week to help me retain my mobility following a serious neck injury.
My wife attends the same referral classes to help with a painful back condition.
These classes are always well attended, usually by older people suffering from a range of physical impairments or recovering from surgery. For all of us, these regular exercise sessions are invaluable.
One thing we all have in common, however, is that none of us is a candidate for gym membership on purely aesthetic grounds!
Parkwood will therefore be ‘inheriting’ a lot of people who, like us at the moment, are able to continue using the leisure centre facilities for a small monthly fee.
The benefits of this arrangement, not only to us personally but also to the NHS, are incalculable - by taking regular exercise we need fewer doctors’ appointments, fewer referrals to hospital clinics and fewer hospital admissions.
Parkwood, however, is a company with shareholders and has bid for this outsourced contract because it sees it as a viable commercial opportunity.
So the big question is, what will become of the current deal between the Vale Council and the local NHS?
Will hospitals be able to continue to refer people like us to the likes of Penarth Leisure Centre to continue the excellent work started in their physiotherapy departments?
Will the disabled - and anyone else who would benefit from access to sport facilities on medical grounds - continue to have access to the leisure centre (and to the current cohort of specially-trained instructors), without having to pay a sizeable monthly fee they may not be able to afford?
In view of the significant implications of these new arrangements, I would like to suggest a public meeting be held at which Parkwood and representatives of the Vale council – who will, after all, continue to own the leisure centre – could answer some of these questions.