Leisure company forced to quash Pyramids petition

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AN ORGANISATION has been forced to pull its campaign to remain the operator of The Pyramids Centre.

Portsmouth City Council made Southsea Community Leisure Limited (SCLL) stop its online and paper petitions because rules say it would be unfair on other firms who have asked to run it.

As previously reported, SCLL had called on visitors to come forward and support it while management of The Pyramids, in Southsea, is out for tender.

Seven other companies have applied to take over the lease of the building, and a final decision will be made at full council on June 11.

The council said its decision would be made based on the quality of a company’s business plan and not a public vote.

Michael Lawther, the council’s solicitor, said: ‘We advised SCLL to remove its petition because under our procurement process, which is governed by the EU and domestic rules, companies should not canvass opinion.

‘This is because any decision taken to recommend the management of The Pyramids must be based on the evaluation criteria alone, including, for example, a sound business plan.

‘Procurement decisions have to stand up to scrutiny and legal challenge, so any attempts to lobby decision makers undermines the integrity of the process.’

SCLL said it had set up the petition with good intentions.

A spokeswoman said: ‘We did not realise this would be the reaction from the council. It was set up genuinely because people had said to us they enjoyed seeing the improvements we had made.

‘It wasn’t about trying to persuade people.

‘We are the only local social enterprise involved.

‘We have lots of members coming into The Pyramids who support what we do and recognise our involvement with the community.’

The petitions were closed on Wednesday and 18 signatures had been submitted online.

Another 172 people had signed a hard copy at The Pyramids. SCLL had hoped to collect 1,500 names by the end of the month and use it to add weight to its application.

Deputy conservative group leader Luke Stubbs, who is councillor for Eastney and Craneswater Ward, said: ‘I am a little surprised the council could do that because while it couldn’t take the petition into account, it could have still let SCLL put a petition in.’