The 12 Year Old History Of The Serco/WLBC Scandal

In 2008 the then WLBC Labour Cllr Cotterill

the Shadow Portfolio Holder Leisure Services wrote “I’ve received an ‘invitation’ from the West Lancashire District Council Chief Executive to meet himself and the District Solicitor to “discuss issues relating to the press release which you issued on SERCO Leisure Service”.

“I duly went along to see the Council offices the other day to see what was up. They advised me that: a) my press release in March, which suggested the Audit Commission was ‘closing in’ on the ‘scandal’ that is Serco’s delivery of leisure services in West Lancashire, was a little bit close to the wire; b) Serco might have looked to take legal action against me for the original report on their activities, and that I should be careful in future.

After which Cllr Cotterill wrote “However, I stand by my report and will be continuing to investigate and shed as much light as possible on what I believe is incorrect use of public money by Serco, and ineffective governance by the West Lancashire Leisure Trust”.

We wrote “Serco so far?”

“In 2019 Serco Leisure Operating Ltd has breached planning conditions at the Beacon Park Golf Course, has blamed Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd, its development partner, has received £183,864 royalties revenue that should be for the West Lancashire Leisure Trust to allocate on local health initiatives, and is responsible for the loss of competitive golf for Senior Golfers for at least a year. 2019 proves Cllr Cotterill was right to challenge Serco in 2008.

And we will probably still write similar reports in 2020 unless Serco meets the commitment that Rupert Soames has made to West Lancashire Borough Council “To invest this money (£183,864) at Beacon Park Golf Course”. And of course in 2020 we are still writing similar reports.

But the evidence of ineffective governance by WLBC has once again been stirred up by the BPGC Senior Golfers, the hardy regulars, the backbone of challengers to the appalling state of BPGC that led to their expulsion from local competition!

 Rupert Soames sent a letter about the Beacon Park Golf Course shutdown. One reply to him includes “Many thanks Mr Soames for your reply. You wrote ‘’I can confirm that it is Serco Leisure Operating Limited’s responsibility to maintain the golf course’’. The people that YOU employ, and are responsible for, deserted the course and left it to vegetate for a period of four weeks whilst ALL the other courses in the area continued essential maintenance. As an example, SHERDLEY PARK greenkeepers were actually NOT working for TWO DAYS. The management called them back in to work and considered it vital to carry out essential maintenance.

You also wrote ‘’We closed the West Lancashire leisure facilities we operate for the council’’. Yes …… a blanket policy……..easy to make……you can even say ‘’ in accordance with Government Instruction’’ Wrong decision !!!  Beacon Park Golf Course is unique in its requirements. It should have been treated as such. It was not a months holiday. As you said, SERCO are responsible for the maintenance of BPGC and are being paid by the taxpayers of West Lancs to manage that maintenance.

“Within days of the ‘LOCKDOWN’ an instruction from the union of golf greenkeepers BIGGA had given a NATIONAL approval that it was ok for greenkeepers to work provided they carry out sensible ‘social distancing’ (not difficult for 2 greenkeepers on a golf course that is two miles long). SERCO took 4 weeks to resume essential maintenance. The return to work was initiated by members complaints to you Mr Soames.

You also wrote ‘’this position will be reviewed on an ongoing basis’’ NONSENSE. The only reason you have instructed the SINGLE greenkeeper to return to work is because we, the membership, have written to complain and pointed out that ALL other clubs in the area are carrying out maintenance work.

‘’We took the decision to suspend membership payments’’ ‘’leaving us with no income to cover our staff and fixed costs’’. SERCO are paid almost £ 1 million pounds per annum for managing BPGC plus other facilities. They also admit to making £200k from landfill ( a joke !) Current membership has been reduced from 300 to 50 since SERCO took over management of BPGC. A high proportion of the current 50 membership are SENIOR members. The course is in such a bad state at the moment because of SERCO overspill on the football golf landfill that SERCO have reduced annual fees by 50%.

That actually equates to approximately £200/annum golf fees for a senior member. This is approximately £17/month. 50 members @ £17/month is a grand total of £850/month

It is difficult to swallow your cries of ‘’financial and operational disaster’’ for a massive organisation like SERCO for £850/month. Particularly when the government is paying 80% of your employee’s wages and also when you are receiving part of a £1 million pound fee to run a golf course that costs you £1 in rental [annual lease] fees.

‘’the maintenance regime will remain in place to allow surfaces to be brought back to an appropriate playing standard’’. Thank you. If you had not let the playing surfaces deteriorate in the first place then they would not need ‘bringing back’!

‘’Having reviewed the recent guidance provided by England Golf and in consultation with the council, I can confirm that we recommenced essential maintenance works at beacon Park’’ NONSENSE. As I have said previously, the only reason that essential maintenance has resumed is because we have complained to YOU Mr Soames. YOU are maintaining the course, why do you have to consult with the council?

“This next quote from your letter is a really confusing ! ‘’albeit on a reduced basis so as not to encourage social gathering or unauthorised usage’’ How on earth does essential maintenance on a reduced basis discourage social gathering and unauthorised usage. You have NO IDEA what you are talking about !!!

“The fact that (a) there has been no essential maintenance for a month and (b) there is just ONE greenkeeper maintaining the course actually ENCOURAGES unauthorised usage and social gathering. Children have been playing in the sand bunkers, families walking the fairways and NUMEROUS members of the public playing and practising unauthorised golf on the course.

“If the course had been maintained properly (like other local courses) then there would have been a REDUCED amount of social gathering and unauthorised usage. Your letter is a pathetic and an inaccurate reply to our complaints. ‘’I trust this clears up the matter’’. NO it does not clear up the matter Mr. Soames. ‘’If not please feel free to come back to me’’. I am coming back to you Mr Soames.

“SERCO’s handling and management of BPGC is pathetic! You have NO track record of Golf Course management. The people you employ to manage the golf course have NO golf knowledge or golf experience. The Nine Hole Par 3 course and Football golf area are a disaster. A disaster that you have, by your own admittance, made money from”.

We don’t know who, if anyone, isclosing in on the ‘scandal” now in 2020. We doubt there is any interest by the WLBC to expose the entire financial matter that gave landfill royalties to everyone but council tax payers. Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd accounts show huge cash movements between related companies, such as Oakland Materials Ltd, of which by public admission on Companies House documents Jonathan Snellgrove is a director, as he is also of OTB Concepts Ltd. Read the relevant information below, on google. Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd for the year ended 30 August 2017.

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