Winchester civic chiefs again under fire for River Park contract

River Park Leisure Centre

River Park Leisure Centre

First published in Winchester Romsey Advertiser: Photograph of the Author by

A WINCHESTER resident has criticised councillors handling of allegations of maladministration over the contract to run River Park Leisure Centre.

Martin Wilson has raised concerns about the way that DC Leisure secured the contract to run the leisure centre and has complained to the council’s auditor.

At the council overview and scrutiny committee he called on councillors to start their own investigation.

He told the committee: “The auditors will be enquiring into financial irregularities: the issue for this committee is wider, in that officers’ compliance with the law, their competence and the proper performance of their duties, as well as the information provided to councillors, is called into question.

“These are serious questions about the conduct of officers over a period of time. These questions also bring into serious doubt the nature of the information that has been provided to councillors and committees to advise decision-making, a good example being Report CAB2553 on River Park Leisure Centre being presented by Steve Tilbury (operations director) today which contains inaccurate and misleading information.”

But councillors said it would be better to wait until Ernst and Young made its report.

Mr Wilson said: “You (the committee) have a mandate to investigate. You have pushed it away.”
Some councillors were sympathetic. Conservative Cllr Robert Sanders said: “Auditors are not the best people to investigate maladministration. They are not investigators. They are watchdogs, not bloodhounds.”

The committee agreed with chairman Chris Pines, Labour group leader, who said: “We should wait to hear from Ernst and Young. I don’t want to duplicate public expense when another body is looking at issues...The last thing I want to do is kick this into the long grass.”

At Liberal Democrat leader Kelsie Learney’ suggestion they agreed that progress reports should be made to forthcoming overview and scrutiny committees.

Simon Eden, chief executive, has disputed Mr Wilson’s allegations about the legality of the tendering process.

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