The cup of cheer is hardly overflowing for leisure centre users around the borough. Indeed, many don’t have even a paper cup, as KEN LEE reports
The borough’s swimming pools and leisure centres are coming in for ever closer scrutiny from the public, as people tire of the poor value being offered at their publicly owned facilities by the out-sourced management.
One centre’s management team has even stopped providing paper cups for gym users to use for drinking water, the latest piece of cost-cutting which has outraged users who yesterday carried out a no-notice community challenge visit to check on the facilities.
Fusion Lifestyle has the contract for Croydon’s leisure centres, but Inside Croydon has been receiving a mounting number of complaints from our loyal reader about the poor maintenance, shabby cleaning and chilly water temperatures at centres in Thornton Heath, Waddon and South Norwood. Some of the issues around maintenance have led to an unplanned closure of one centre for an unspecified period.
Fusion was handed the management contract by the previous Tory administration at the Town Hall. The over-riding consideration, it is emerging, was that the deal for the council was cheap. But as has emerged with out-sourced contracts for the borough’s parks and libraries, the winning bid was perhaps too cheap, impossibly so to run the services that the public expect, and leisure centre-users are now having to deal with the consequences.
Residents are yet again finding that they are being ill-served by contractors, and by their council, which appears unable to devote the staff to ensure regularly that its contractor is delivering on its contract.
“It’s appalling and it’s expensive for what it is,” one angry resident posted on social media. “It’s just poorly managed and not getting better. Time to have facilities run for the benefit of the community and not shareholders.”
Fusion Lifestyle is actually registered as a charity.
According to its most recent set of accounts, this “charity” made a surplus of £2million for managing leisure centres for Croydon and other local authorities. Its accounts show that they have four employees on more than £100,000 per year, including one on more than £200,000. It is reasonable to assume that none of these have been sweeping the pool deck at New Addington any time in the past six months.
The contractors are not responsible for paying for the maintenance of the centres (beyond reporting issues when they arise), but it is fast becoming clear that on the pared-down terms of their contract with the council, they are doing only the bare minimum, which sees them avoiding spending money on hiring too many staff, getting too much cleaning done, or even providing paper cups for the centre’s users.
Among other complaints from centre users have been “various unpleasant stains on the walls in the changing rooms and hair all over the walls and floor”; “ceiling tiles have gone and the ones there are stained”; “the pool yesterday was freezing and the air con out in the gym”.
Another gym user said, “The gym seems to get filthier every time I go… I seem to get ill every time I use it.”
Another keen swimmer advised, “Pool’s water temperature is supposed to be kept between 28-32C. It hardly ever goes above 23- 24C.
“The showers mostly dispense only barely warm water. This hardly warm water only comes out of one shower provided no other shower is being used at the same time… Hardly any old person now goes for swimming.”
It costs £3.50 per hour session for a swim at Thornton Heath.
“Numerous requests has been made to the pool manager and person in charge at our Town Hall, no action has been taken to rectify the problems.”
In Thornton Heath, residents have lost patience with the poor service standards, and a group of activists, including Labour councillor Maggie Mansell, yesterday conducted a no-notice inspection of the facilities.
Bensham Manor councillor Jamie Audsley describes this as “continuing to do all we can to create the accountability required to ensure a quality service”.
In a message sent today by the council’s contract team to Timothy Godfrey, the cabinet member responsible for sport and leisure, it said that at Thornton Heath Leisure Centre, “The lockers have been fixed with the new £1 coin adaptation added.” The coin has been legal tender for six months, its arrival trailed for more than a year before that.
“The showers have been repaired and are all working.
“The lift is scheduled to be repaired this week it took longer to ascertain where the leak was coming from and this has now been repaired and dried out to allow the electrical work to start.
“I (contract manager) am also with their (Fusion’s) head of facilities management all day today going round all venues along and will be discussing further.”
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