Sheffield City Council sells out leisure to the private sector
Starmer told the CBI that Labour is the party of business and, as if to prove this ‘Blair lite’ claim, Sheffield Council has just chosen to place the future of leisure and entertainment in the city in the hands of the private sector.
The current arrangements with the Sheffield City Trust – set up in 1987 – came up for review and councillors were faced with three choices: (1) take in house (2) create a Council owned company; or (3) do a deal with a private provider.
And true to Starmer’s vision of the Labour Party being the party of business, option 3 was chosen.
So, Ponds Forge, Hillsborough Leisure Centre, Sheffield City Hall along with assorted sports centres and golf courses across the city will be heading into private hands.
Of course, this is the cheapest and most risk-free option for the Council – burdened with huge deficits because of Tory cuts - but where is the long-term vision?
This deal will mean that, for the next 30 years, Sheffield services will yet again be controlled by the private sector – alongside other such vital services as the bin collections and the control of many of Sheffield’s schools.
With other services such as social care predominantly provided by private sector companies, it is beginning to be a shorter list as to what the Council directly controls and which of the ever-smaller group of workers are directly employed by Sheffield.
The plan goes out for consultation – through the Local Area Committees. As reported in the last bulletin, these are made up of councillors with no members of the public on them. Don’t hold your breath that this consultation is anything other than a “rubber stamp”.
This was an opportunity to show real vision about how a socialist-led Labour Council supporting its own city - bring the services back in house, directly employ local people and make sure that what runs in Sheffield is run by Sheffield.
Instead, we have another depressing step down the road to the transformation of a local council into a body that commissions the private sector to provide public services for private profit.
All the talk about mimicking the Preston model of prioritising local businesses and local people can be seen for what it is – all talk.
Labour Councils have a great opportunity to demonstrate that there is an alternative to the Tory led narrative that the private sector and the free market is the only political path open.