The creation of a new Lambeth cultural board and trust, which will give private non-profit Green-wich Leisure Services (GLL) greater control of Lambeth leisure facilities, has sparked fears that Brixton Rec is under threat.
GLL already manages the borough’s leisure centres and is planning to install gyms in some Lambeth libraries, but the Brixton Rec Users Group (BRUG) fear that there will be no elected councillors or community representatives on the new Lambeth Cultural Board, which is due to be introduced in January next year.
The board will consist of two Lambeth officers and two GLL representatives. NHS providers, Lambeth College and Southbank representatives may be added.
Robyn Dasey of BRUG said the decision raised major questions of democratic accountability and community and user involvement.
“Rec users had to campaign to save the Rec until the council leader Lib Peck, in 2012, gave assurances at a packed public meeting that the Rec would be kept under council control.”
“The council is responsible for major maintenance, and users are worried about what will happen in the future”.
The group said it had not been consulted, despite having agreed consultation arrangements.
It is demanding that the council now discuss the impact of its proposals on the future of publicly owned leisure facilities with users and the wider community.
There are fears that GLL could restrict community club access.
Steadman Scott of Afewee community-led football and boxing club said: “We had to shame GLL to allow our community club to use the Rec. The Rec is the only safe place for our youngsters.”
Fears are also growing among Rec users that the facility could eventually be sold.
“The council has left the door open for GLL to become the ultimate owner of the Trust, and presumably the public asset that it would control,” said Dasey.
Cllr Jane Edbrooke, Cabinet member for Neighbourhoods, attempted to reassure opponents of the proposals that there would be a strong community presence on the Board.
“Further discussions about the structure and role of the board will take place and no decisions have yet been taken,” she said.
“But I would expect democratically elected councillors to be board members, representing the interests of local people.”
A Lambeth Cultural Trust, proposed by GLL, is also to be set up, and will oversee three new gyms in the Carnegie, Minet and Tate South Lambeth libraries.
Income from the leisure centres will subsidise the library gyms and £2m will be immediately transferred to set them up.
Cllr Edbrooke said: “The idea of the Lambeth cultural board was always as a ‘stepping stone’ towards the creation of a Lambeth Cultural Trust, as detailed in the cabinet report, working within the parameters of GLL’s established business governance.”