Consultants paid more than £100k on Spalding's Castle Sports Complex Leaders vow to get on with plan for sports centre amid criticism
More than £100,000 has been paid out to a consultancy firm working on the Castle Sports Complex in the last five years.
District council leaders say they are pleased with the work carried out - but opposition members say the figure is ‘worrying’ and have hit out at the lack of progress on revamping the dated facilities at the Spalding venue.
Information revealed from a Freedom of Information request by this paper shows that leisure consultants Max Associates have been paid £109,145 in total since 2017/18.
South Holland District Council says this money paid for work producing tender documents for a new leisure management tender as well as advice during Covid and work looking at the strategy for leisure in our district as well as Boston and East Lindsey.
Coun Gary Taylor, portfolio holder for communities and facilities, said he was pleased with their work - and said the authority was now focussing on sorting the future of the centre.
He confirmed that the plan is to keep the leisure facilities on the current Castle site.
Leading councillors say they hope to finally make a decision on the future of the Castle Sports Complex - amid criticism of slow progress and the amount spent on consultants.
District council communities and facilities portfolio holder Gary Taylor said he was pleased with the work done by consultants on the Spalding leisure facilities.
As revealed above, Max Associates have been paid £109,145 in total since 2017/18 for helping sort the leisure contract, giving Covid advice and setting the strategy for the future.
Coun Taylor said this work could have tied up an officer full time - and that Max provides industry expertise.
He said: “They have got their fingers on the pulse regarding what’s required at the moment.”
Opposition leader Coun Angela Newton said the sort of money paid to consultants could have gone towards paying for an expert in house.
She added: “It’s worrying because it’s our money.
“That money could have gone a long way towards refurbishing the sports hall.
“How much have we paid to consultants per se over the whole authority you wonder.
“Years ago you expected senior officers to have that knowledge or you would go out to tender and would work out for yourselves what was the best value.”
A separate Freedom of Information request from this paper to ask how much was spent in total on consultants across the authority - and the services they provided - over the past five years was rejected on the grounds it would take too much officers’ time to calculate.
Coun David Wilkinson said he did not consider the money with Max Associates to be well spent since it did not ‘achieve anything’.
He said: “Most members do not require consultants to tell us what is wrong with our leisure facilities as we already know and have voiced our opinions many times.”
Coun Taylor said that Covid has got in the way of the plan to revamp the facilities at the Castle.
He said the situation was now ‘encouraging’, with talks in the last week on moving the issue forward.
He also said the council is clear it wants to keep leisure facilities on the same site.
He said: “When one centre closes the other should open next door rather than the whole debate and conversation about the location which can be a distraction. We have decided on that - that’s some progress.”
He added: “The focus is back on it. It’s clearly our ambition to get on with it and make a decision soon.”
Leading councillors also hope to tap into the expertise of partners in Boston and East Lindsey - where cash was secured for a £7.1 million revamp of the Geoff Moulder Leisure Complex.
Coun Taylor hopes a new-look leisure centre can be fit for the future.
He said: “It’s a good location but it’s a bizarre design. It’s a strange scenario when the sauna is in the swimming pool but that’s across the car park from the dry side gym and all the other facilities.”
Opposition councillors, however, say they are frustrated that a solution has still not been agreed for new leisure facilities - with a previous plan falling through as a result of the 2008 financial crisis.
Coun Newton said: “They have been saying they are going to do something down there for ages - and that before the election we would have a shiny new complex. I don’t know which election they are talking about.”
Coun Wilkinson added: “In my opinion there needs to be a will within the executive of any organisation, this is and has never been forthcoming in South Holland, it is pointless continually engaging advisors when there is no will to give the district top class leisure facilities.
“We do not have anyone who is passionate about driving leisure forward, this not only applies to the Castle Sports Centre but also the South Holland Centre, sadly history shows we are lacking in this area.”
Max Associates received £10,530 from South Holland District Council in 2017/18, £42,120 in 2018/19, £22,895 in 2019/20, £7,400 in 2020/21 and £26,200 in 2021/22.
Lisa Forsyth, of Max Associates, told the Free Press it was for the council to comment on the money spent as part of this contract.