Stirling Council will no longer privatise its sports and leisure facilities and instead will set up a charitable trust
Stirling Council has announced it is to create a new charitable trust to operate its sports and leisure facilities.
The move came about in a last minute u-turn after the council faced a volley of criticism for plans to become the first local authority in Scotland to privatise an entire public facing service.
A proposal, which was dismissed last night, would have seen English based Sports and Leisure Management (SLM) awarded a 25 year contract.
The organisation had controversially claimed it planned to apply for charitable status for an offshoot trust which would run the facility.
It was said the trust would then buy its services such as food, IT and equipment from SLM.
There were fears in the sector that if allowed this would set a dangerous precedent of private companies setting up sham charities in order to claim tax breaks and access to funds at the expense of genuine organisations.
Speaking ahead of the decision the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) had said it would have to consider any application as legislation requires it to do.
However councillors at a special meeting of Stirling Council rejected the proposal along with one other under grounds that it did not secure best value and cancelled the procurement process.
It further announced current operators Active Stirling would continue to run its sports, physical activity and wellbeing services until the end of November when the facilities will be transferred to a new Stirling based not-for-profit charitable trust.
Other local authorities have already followed this model with Glasgow Life operating sports facilities in Glasgow and Edinburgh Leisure the operator of services in the capital.
Nearly 1,800 people had signed a petition calling for the privatisation plans to be scrapped.
SNP Stirling Council group leader, Councillor Scott Farmer, said: "I am delighted that common sense has prevailed tonight and that the SNP have managed to negotiate a halt to the privatisation of sports services.
“However, we should never have been marched to the cliff edge in this way and serious questions must be answered by the Tory/Labour administration who led this process.”
A spokesperson for Stirling Council said: “Stirling Council has voted to look at setting up a dedicated Stirling based charitable trust to run its sports and leisure services.
“While procurement process was robust, the council decided neither of the two bids submitted met its wider ethos of being community-led.
"The focus throughout this process has been to ensure the provision of the best possible sports, physical activity and wellbeing service and opportunities throughout the area."