PORTSMOUTH’S Tories have called on the city council to find a new company to run the Pyramids Centre.
Their criticisms of Southsea Community Leisure Limited – the not-for-profit group which runs the centre – came as the pool remained closed this week following a leak.
Conservative spokesman for culture, sport and leisure, Cllr Jim Fleming, said despite claims that it would be run at no cost to the taxpayer, the council had now paid the company almost £1m since they took over in November 2010.
‘We would all love to keep the Pyramids open, but not at any cost,’ he said. ‘This was a bad deal for the city taxpayer and the money now needed to just keep the doors open is unsustainable, especially when we look at all the services that this council is looking to cut over the next few months.
‘If anything we need a company with a proven track record of success to come in to give the Pyramids its best chance of long-term success and at a reduced cost to taxpayers.’
But managing director of Southsea Community Leisure, Gary Milne, said they were on track to receive around £350,000 from the council for running costs during this financial year, compared with more than £850,000 required by the previous company during its final 12 months.
‘Any private company that comes in will not be able to match our investment in the site,’ he said. ‘And they will be running it at a profit, which means that money will not be going back into the community. ‘People should stop using the Pyramids as a political football, because it damages confidence and affects the number of people we get through the doors.’
He added that in the last year 212,000 people had visited the centre – more than in the previous seven years – and he hoped to be running the centre at no cost to the taxpayer by June 2013.
Leader of the council, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said the council took the decision to subsidise the Pyramids when the business plan originally put forward by Southsea Community Leisure didn’t work.
‘We are committed to keeping the centre open,’ he said. ‘And I am concerned that some Conservative councillors want to drive the company running the Pyramids out of business.’
Repairs to the pools are continuing and Mr Milne said he hopes it will reopen by half-term.