Tory leisure boss urged to apologise

17 Oct 2023
A motion to the extraordinary general meeting of the city council on October 19 calls for Andy Lewis, Conservative cabinet member for culture and leisure, to make a written apology for the failure to agree a deal with Aspire.

Gloucester’s leisure boss is being urged to apologise publicly over his handling of the shock closure of GL1.

The city’s leisure hub and the Oxstalls tennis centre closed suddenly on September 29 with the loss of more than 150 jobs after charitable trust Aspire went into liquidation.

Aspire had reached the end of its 15-year contract with the city council to run leisure services and had hoped to agree a 12-month extension before a new provider took over.

But when negotiations with the city council failed, Aspire’s trustees placed the charity into administration.

A motion to the extraordinary general meeting of the city council on October 19 calls for Andy Lewis, Conservative cabinet member for culture and leisure, to make a written apology for the failure to agree a deal with Aspire.

If councillors support the motion, Councillor Lewis will have to write formally apologising to:

– the 150 staff who lost their jobs when the Aspire Trust went into administration

– to the users of the GL1 leisure centre and the Oxstalls tennis centre

– to councillors

– and to the city’s taxpayers.

The motion has been proposed by Liberal Democrat Councillor Jeremy Hilton, leader of the opposition.

“The sudden closure of GL1 and the Oxstalls tennis centre and the liquidation of the Aspire Trust is yet another financial disaster placed upon Gloucester City Council by the Conservative administration,” Councillor Hilton said.

“Sports clubs have been left in the cold as have many private coaching sessions and hard working employees of Aspire lost their jobs.

“Despite a phased reopening of the two sports centres, the Barton and Twyer swimming pools remain closed to the public.

“All of this could have been avoided if Councillor Lewis had agreed a contract extension with Aspire. He should apologise for this failure.”

Liberal Democrat councillors have raised concerns about the Aspire for some time now as it has been known the trust has been in financial difficulty for several years.

Councillor Sebastian Field, Liberal Democrat culture and leisure spokesman, added: “For too long the city council has got other people to run things they ought to have been running themselves.

“This is a failure of the Conservative administration. They knew that Aspire was in difficulties, and Liberal Democrat councillors have been asking questions about the financial picture for many months.

“The Conservatives should have been on top of this and had contingencies in place.”

– The amended motion on leisure and sports facilities

“This council notes the closure of city council leisure and sports facilities following the collapse of Aspire Sports and Cultural Trust that operated GL1 Leisure Centre and the Oxstalls Tennis Centre on the council’s behalf.

This council calls on the cabinet member for culture and leisure to provide a written apology to the staff of Aspire, the users of the sports centres, to members of the council and city council taxpayers for his administration’s failure to negotiate a continuation of the contract with Aspire, which would have stopped the dramatic closure of the council’s sports facilities.

This council agrees that the public and users of these sports facilities should not have to wait 12 months before they are fully reopened.

This council calls on the administration to reopen these facilities as early as possible using staff directly employed by the city council if necessary.”

Proposed by Councillor Jeremy Hilton