John Lewis? Costcutter More Like…

And so what price on the privatisation of leisure by Labour led @lambeth_council? Apart from the inconvenience of the nearest GLL swimming pool that is open during the daytime being up in Camden, my calculations make it just under £177, 000 per annum..

I filed a Freedom of Information request a few weeks ago, asking how many Greenwich Leisure Limited memberships have been cancelled in Lambeth between 1st December 2009 and the 31st January 2010.

This timeframe corresponds with the closure of Streatham Leisure Centre at the end of November 2009, the closure of Clapham Leisure in mid-January 2010 and the reduced opening hours at Brixton Rec at the end of January 2010.

The £177, 000 figure is calculated by multiplying the £26 basic GLL monthly membership price with the 567 cancellations as stated in the FOI request. This gives a monthly figure of £14, 742. Multiply this figure by twelve, and you get the annual revenue loss of £176, 904.

The £177, 000 in lost revenue only relates to leisure users in Lambeth that had signed up to become GLL members. The figure doesn’t take into account the number of lost swimming sessions by pay as you go users, who also now have nowhere to swim in Lambeth.

The reduction of monthly cash flow becomes something of a convenient self-fulfilling prophecy for local politicians. Streatham was closed because it needed investment. With nowhere to swim in SW16, the users cancelled their memberships. The council is then left with a reduced money pot in which to justify making the necessary repairs.

The FOI request also states that 308 cancellations took place in the corresponding timeframe twelve months previous. I accept that this suggests that there may be a seasonal trend happening here. Losing 259 further members in a calendar year is still a pretty heavy loss in income.

A combined figure of 875 cancelled memberships over a two year period indicates that something is pretty rotten to the core in the way that leisure is currently managed in Lambeth.

It is interesting to view this £177, 000 shortfall in the context of the John Lewis cooperative style of government that Lambeth Labour proposed this week. GLL was name checked as a success story in this style of local governance.

The John Lewis model is a social experiment imposed on the people living in the Lambeth Petri dish direct response to the Tories up in Barnet and their Easy Jet two-tier system of local government:

“The Tories in Barnet have come up with a plan to offer no-frills public services along the lines of budget airlines like Ryan air. What that means is minimal or sub-standard services offered to most people with better services only available to people wealthy enough to pay more for them.

Looking at the options open to leisure users in Lambeth, and there is little to choose between the two main parties and their high street branding attempts to become electable.

Leisure is already run as a two-tier service in the Rotten Borough. If you want to swim, then you have to go down the private route of paying up to join Fitness First. The standard no thrills service offered by @lambeth_council is a closed Streatham Leisure Centre, a Clapham Leisure Centre that is in the hands of private capital and a bonkers opening timetable at Brixton Rec.

But it’s not all about costings – what about the health benefits of leisure? The real price for the privatisation of leisure by Labour led @lambeth_council is the reduction in exercise taken by local people at facilities in the borough. You can’t even begin to put a costing on this

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