Category: BeaconParkGolfCourseWatch

Serco’s Park Pool Cockroaches

Pool tackles outbreak of cockroaches

The recent report in the Advertiser doesn’t mention Serco as being responsible for the outbreaks. It simply refers to “West Lancashire Community Leisure Trust” and its contract manager. It does mention a pool user for 30 years saying it was saddening it has taken so long for action to be taken. She regrets not taking photographic evidence at times when the infestations were serious.

And she claims “Perhaps the day we visited the infestation was more prominent. But some employees certainly require additional customer service skills in order to deal with concerns raised by customers . When significant pests were visible, they were just told that someone will be out to brush the dead ones up”.

Why was the infestation even present? After all, the contract manager said “Cockroaches can be attracted to wet and warm places like swimming pools”. Knowing that, why wasn’t prevention up to required standards? 

But the then Tory West Lancashire Borough Council outsourced leisure services to Serco 15 years ago. Since then we’ve had the saga of the Beacon Park Golf Course landfill during which Serco breached planning conditions while the destination of the landfill royalties on 23,375 lorry loads, plus the VAT, remain unavailable to the public.

The “new” course remains unplayable, there is still no “footgolf” facility, and another year of disruption awaits golfers while Serco simply spreads its excess landfill along a fairway rather than be ordered to get rid of it off site. 

We wrote “Mr Soames CEO states in his company Strategic Report “Serco has deep expertise: overlaid on our private sector techniques, drive and energy is a public service ethos that means that we can help deliver government services efficiently, but in a way that recognises the need for public accountability and trust”…but not, apparently, the need for public accountability of the landfill royalties Serco has accrued from the Beacon Park Golf Course”.

As for the Park Pool cockroaches, perhaps Serco’s deep expertise, private sector techniques, and efficiency are simply mythical while the profits they make from WLBC’s leisure contract blur the Serco strategy?

Back In The League For Beacon Seniors

Back where they belong

On 1st April 2019 the Contracts Manager for Serco Leisure Operating Limited advised Rosie Cooper MP that the Senior Players of the Beacon Park Golf Course were reinstated to the competitive league we know they grace with their presence in it. Having been kicked out unceremoniously because Serco Leisure Operating Ltd (SLOL)and Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd had ruined parts of the course and driving range  by illegal breaches of planning conditions, it was a case of job done by Rosie and the Senior players.

Rosie wrote “It seems there is now light at the end of the tunnel for the members at Beacon Park Golf Course after much controversy about the state of the course”.

She states she “has taken a keen interest in developments at the Beacon, following countless complaints over the poor state of the course since Serco took over and landfill works began”.

Despite all these challenges, the Beacon Seniors beat the odds and won the South West Lancs Seniors League last year. This season, due to the ongoing landfill situation, the Seniors were suspended from the league. There was uproar at this decision. MP Rosie had met with the golfers on site to discuss their concerns, as well as meeting with Serco and West Lancashire Borough Council Directors to find a solution.

Following a recent meeting of the league, at which Serco attended to present their work remeasuring the course and maintaining an 18-hole facility that meets CONGU regulations complete with new stroke index and score cards, to everyone’s delight, the Seniors have been re-admitted to compete in this year’s competition.

50% off all memberships

Additionally, SLOL has assured Rosie in writing that “From 1st April we are offering 50% off all memberships for the next 12 months at Beacon Park”. No work has yet started to reinstate the course to something approaching its former glory. Nor will it ever be, unless those involved in the works are not the cowboy companies mentioned here.

In a recent somewhat oblique reference to the course, Labour Cllr John Bullock said, of the new Borough development company “The entity acquiring the land is essentially passing the wealth of the Borough to a separate legal personality in which we may or may not have tools of control (to be tested – hopefully not in a court of law) [Think Beacon Golf Club]”

“Think court of law, think Beacon Golf Club”

and in that context surely it is reasonable to consider what we all know, that the land-filling of Beacon Park Golf Course began and ended with the wealth that was created by the dumping of 23,375 lorry loads, 187,000 m3 volume of fill being claimed by, accounted for, and paid in secret to the private companies Serco Leisure Operating Ltd and Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd.

As we’ve published so often, the intended beneficiary of the landfill royalties would be the West Lancashire Community Leisure Trust. Its annual accounts do not provide any evidence to prove the receipt of other than its regular leisure income. It’s hardly surprising, because we know SLOL admitted to having received the royalty income. Serco plc has admitted to receiving a considerable sum from it. Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd showed various income moving between associated companies run by director Jonathan Snellgrove. No evidence has ever been produced of VAT accountability on the landfill activity, a matter that should be seriously examined by WLBC.

 

Bloody Golfers At BPGC

The Senior Club Members at Beacon Park Golf Course are resilient in the face of the Serco landfill scandal, and they are displaying it by the chosen charity of this year’s Captain, Mick Lightbody, who is inspired by the superb work of the Aintree Hospital Trauma Unit.

Previous Captain Mike Collins was seriously injured by a car accident in which he suffered loss of his spleen, eight broken ribs plated and screwed back, a broken cheek bone, a fractured scull, a collapsed lung, and an ear almost torn off. But he is now fit and well, a legend to the fantastic skill and devotion of the Aintree Hospital Trauma Ward.

This year Mike has handed over the captaincy of BPGC to Mick Lightbody. You won’t be surprised to know Mick was inspired to choose the Aintree Trauma Centre as his chosen charity. As his flyer states

B-Bloody Golfers making Blood and Money Donations

P-Putting it right for Aintree Hospital Trauma Ward

G-Golf Captain Mick Lightbody’s chosen Charity

C-Clubbing together to make a difference

Blood is vital to the work of the Trauma Ward. Mick is asking for members and any other resident of West Lancashire to donate blood, supplies of which are always low. So Mick hopes set up a donation unit at the golf club on a particular day during the coming months. As he points out, blood saves lives, that is a certainty.

Mick’s Facebook has a Just Giving facility https://www.facebook.com/mick.lightbody

As we all know, Serco Leisure Operating Ltd received £183,864 of the landfill royalty, money which WLR contends should belong to WLBC for them to keep the BPGC in top condition. Although Serco has agreed to sponsor the Captain’s Invitation Day on 15th June, it is small beer compared to that £183,864, and WLR contends Rupert Soames, the Chairman of Serco, should do the decent thing and donate the lot to the Mick Lightbody  Aintree Trauma Ward charity. On a daily basis Aintree University Hospital treats patients who have variety of life-changing injuries including traumatic brain injuries, spinal injuries, traumatic amputations, traumatic chest injuries and multiple fractures.

Wouldn’t it also be nice for the staff at WLBC to attend the blood donor session at BPGC, just to show some sympathy and practical support too?

Beacon Park Golf Course Remodelling Of Landfill

Or, how to confuse the public by changes of case number

Planning development 2019/0107/CON is the “Approval of Details Reserved by Condition No. 2 of planning permission 2018/1164/FUL, (which was 2011/0787/FUL), relating to the schedule for completion of the works. Beacon Park Golf Centre, Beacon Lane, Dalton West Lancashire WN8 7RU for Aardvark. 2011/0787/FUL was the original “Partial remodelling of existing golf course and driving range and creation of new nine hole short course” by landfill. 

Now, we have the proposal, but with the chance of a coal mining risk

Dear Sirs (WLBC)

“Ref: Application Number 2018/1164/FUL-Remodelling Of Driving Range

At Beacon Park Golf Centre To Create A Foot Golf Course; Remodelling Of 1st Hole Green, 2nd Hole Tees, Creation Of Mounding And Reprofiling Of Ground Adjacent To 1st Fairway; Remodelling Of Ground Between 1st And 18th Holes And Associated Landscaping On Land At Beacon Park Golf Centre, Beacon Lane, Dalton.

“In accordance with the requirements of Condition 2 of the above planning consent, which requires the applicant within one month of the date of the permission to provide details of the date of commencement and schedule for completion of the works to the Local Planning Authority for approval, please take this letter as confirmation of the proposed programme of works.

“The anticipated start of construction works on site will be the beginning of April 2019 with the construction works phase anticipated to have a target completion date of mid-March 2020 and handover of the site back to the Golf Club in April 2020. As seen from the above programme the pre-construction phase has already started with vegtation clearance, grass cutting and the Golf Course re-measurement is scheduled to be undertaken shortly.

“The proposed construction timeline as set out above shows the actual construction works on the site is anticipated to be approximately 50 weeks. This may vary dependent on weather and other constraints unknown at this stage. It is proposed to prioritise the remodelling of 1st hole green, 2nd hole tees, and the mounding and reprofiling of ground adjacent to 1st fairway within the works programme to maximise the growing period before handover.

“The applicant since receiving the decision notice has mobilised the site investigation works on the driving range to take some core samples of the material to cross check the records of the imported fill to understand it better and also reviewing the mines risk strategy as there are no records the membrane is in place as required by the Coal Authority in the coal mining risk assessment. Both are integral to the form and content of the contract to be awarded to undertake the works. The applicant will inform the Council of any changes to the above programme from the findings of these site investigations.

“In accordance with condition 8 of the decision notice, construction of the development will be undertaken 5.5 days a week. The proposed hours of working during the construction period will be between 08:00 and 17:00 Monday to Friday and 08:00 to 13:00 on Saturdays. Any operations of any nature proposed on Sunday or Public Bank Holidays will be subject to the prior written approval of the Local Planning Authority”.

8 years and still a shambles

Between them Serco Leisure Operating Ltd and Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd have dumped landfill massively in excess of planning permission, wrecked the course, taken the royalties, and Serco is now contracting by tender for remedial work. It will have been at least 9 years before the course has a chance of being back to normality. Even that will have high banks of re-located landfill down each side of the first fairway. It’s time for a full public inquiry.

Serco In Further Breach Of Beacon Park Golf Course Planning Permission

Serco a law unto themselves?

The Serco Leisure Operating Ltd/Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd landfill fiasco at Beacon Park Golf Course

shows further disdain to WLBC by yet another non-compliance with a required planning condition.

There has been no published response to a binding order, that “Within one month of the date of this permission details of the date of commencement and schedule for completion of the works shall be submitted to the Local Planning Authority for approval”. 

An email to John Harrison at WLBC Development states

“I refer to the ongoing saga of the Beacon Park Golf Course development and the most recent recorded permission signed by yourself, “Dated: 11 January 2019”

“In respect of application number 2018/1164/FUL received on 5 November 2018 and in pursuance of its powers under the above-mentioned Act and Order, West Lancashire Borough Council as Local Planning Authority, having considered your application, hereby grants permission for: Remodeling of driving range at Beacon Park Golf Centre to create a Foot Golf course, remodeling of 1st hole green, 2nd hole tees, creation of mounding and re-profiling of ground adjacent to 1st fairway, remodeling of ground between 1st and 18th holes and associated landscaping. at: Beacon Park Golf Centre, Beacon Lane, Dalton, Wigan

“Subject to the Conditions (and Reasons for those Conditions)

listed on the attached sheet.

“2. Within one month of the date of this permission details of the date of commencement and schedule for completion of the works shall be submitted to the Local Planning Authority for approval. The works shall take place in accordance with the agreed schedule unless otherwise agreed in writing with the Local Planning Authority”.

“Has WLBC received the required schedule but not published it, as it is not included in the published case documents? If not, what action will now be taken?”

Perhaps it is all down to a lack of interest or urgency by Serco? After all, the landfill saga is as bad a breach of planning consent as you might see in West Lancashire. The Serco Contracts Manager wrote to Rosie Cooper date 31 January 2019 that “Serco are now starting the procurement process and have produced a tender document that is currently out to a number of contractors”. 

CONGU

He also stated “We have booked the course to be re-measured as required by CONGU regulations and this is scheduled for 19th February”.

The only handicap to playing on the once beautiful Beacon Park Golf Course

is Serco, as it destroys the entire first fairway by moving excess illegal landfill there off the old driving range

and re-vamping the 18th hole too. 

Councillor Losing His Briefs And Serco So Far?

Is Serco “As guilty in 2019 as was claimed back in 2008?” In 2008 Labour Cllr Paul Cotterill  wrote “I reported recently on my concerns that Serco may be being quietly lined up, under the cover of the ‘shared services’ agenda, to deliver other West Lancashire District Council services, despite its failures in delivering the ones its got a contract for already.

“So I asked for a briefing, as is my right (or so I thought) as Shadow Portfolio Holder Services for Community Services (including leisure services, parks and open spaces etc). I have been told, twice (well I wrote twice to ask), politely but firmly, that this is not possible, and that I will have to get any news I do get from the Labour group leader, who is allowed to meet the Chief Executive. That might happen next week when the Chief Executive returns from holidays.

“So is the Conservative-controlled Council hiding something? Is it scared I might do something awful like tell people what’s going on in good time for them to take a view? I couldn’t possibly say. I’ve not been briefed”. 

 Cllr Cotterill, Shadow Portfolio Holder, Leisure Services, had published “A Labour Review, an Interim report to the Leader of West Lancashire Labour Group of District Councillors”. Below we publish parts of the report that seem relevant to Serco Leisure Operating Ltd in 2019.

SERCO SO FAR
A Labour review
Interim report to the Leader of West Lancashire Labour Group of District Councillors

Executive summary

Paul Cotterill
Shadow Portfolio Holder, Leisure Services
January 2008

“This is an interim report, made to the leader of West Lancashire Labour Group of councillors but presented publicly for comment and further input, on the performance of SERCO Leisure Ltd (hereafter SERCO) in the delivery of leisure services at five wet and dry facilities in West Lancashire. It identifies a number of key failures and weaknesses in SERCO’s delivery of the contract, in West Lancashire District Council’s initial contracting arrangements, and the capacity of West Lancashire Leisure Trust, established expressly to manage the SERCO contract, to fulfil that function.

“SERCO has provided misleading analyses of its proposed price increases, whether by fault or by design. Actual percentage increases have been higher than the figure provided by SERCO. In 2006, the actual average price rise was around 9.24% rather than the 4.54% rise claimed by SERCO and accepted by West Lancashire Leisure Trust. Price rises for individuals, as distinct from those for other public organisations, may have been as high as 14% in the same year. Poor data provision means that price rises in 2005 cannot yet be adequately assessed.

“While SERCO and the District Council have made claims about the success of the service on the basis of growing patronage (take up) between 2005 and 2007, the overall growth figure conceals quite alarming disparities. While use has grown in better off areas, it has slumped in the lower income area of Skelmersdale. This is a dangerous pattern to have emerged so early in the contract, especially given the cumulative and long standing nature of negative lifestyle changes.

“Fundamentally, there is a great risk that the people of West Lancashire will be failed by the operations of the contract with SERCO. In narrow terms this is because of the poor initial establishment and consequent monitoring of the contract with SERCO, but ultimately this poor contracting has its roots in a neo-liberal political philosophy unsuited to modern, responsible local government which seeks to ensure the well-being of the whole community”.

“I’ve received an invitation”

Also in 2008 Cllr Cotterill 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.” The press release included data analysis and the report that he produced on Serco Leisure Ltd’s operations in West Lancashire since ‘outsourcing’ by the Conservatives in 2005. The Council went to some lengths to ensure that the report was not distributed through its own channels, and the local press did its best to ignore the detail of the findings, preferring a headline to say that ‘families can’t afford to keep fit’ rather than focusing on what I suggest is a strategy of excluding of low income people.

“Now, the Chief Executive is not a bloke who goes around seeking urgent meetings with scruffy opposition councillors if he doesn’t need to, and especially not with his lawyer present. So something must be up, especially as the press release is four months old now. I know the Audit Commission took an interest in the findings when I sent them, and I know the auditor has been in the Council recently, so are the big guns coming out to make sure it doesn’t all get just a little bit too public for them? Are Serco getting a little bit worried and banging their corporate fist? We’ll see next Thursday when I go and meet them”.

“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.

“The implication in the latter advice was that Serco just hadn’t feel it important enough to pursue, or were feeling kindly towards me. Of course, just as valid a reason for Serco not chasing me is that the report is an accurate assessment of the misleading data on price increase averages (I’ve never said that this is purposeful), and more generally their use of public funds in a way that promotes social inequality. Another reason may be they’ve never bothered to read it!

“I am of course grateful to the Chief Executive and the District Solicitor for what are obviously well meaning attempts to protect me from myself, they are both patently decent people and I am not suggesting that their view of my press release (they didn’t mention the actual report) is anything other than duly cautious.

Incorrect use of public money by Serco

“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”.

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”.

Dodgy Serco Leisure Golf Contracts

The history of Serco’s  propensity for dodgy dealing during the Beacon Park Golf Course landfill “development” is well known. It spread to the annual contracts of members which changed without disclosure of the terms and conditions. So inevitably we used the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to bring light into the darkness? Wrong, the glow of transparency turned into the fog of denial. Read the exchanges below.

3 December 2018 via WhatDoTheyKnow

“Serco Leisure has written to Beacon Park Golf Club members advising them of changes to membership contract terms and conditions to take effect from 1 December 2018. Members have been referred to a westlancsleisure.com website which does not respond and the terms and conditions are still unknown. Will WLBC Leisure Department intervene to publish the new terms and conditions on the WLBC website rather than expect golf club members to rely on Serco Leisure for this vital information?”

21 December 2018 WLBC response

“Thank you for your email of 4th December 2018 where you requested information on the changes to terms and conditions to membership contract terms at Beacon Park Golf Club being instigated by SERCO Leisure. Unfortunately the Council does not hold this information and I would suggest that you contact SERCO Leisure direct for further details. If you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request, you have the right to ask for an internal review…etc and ask Simon Burnett, Deputy Director of Leisure and Wellbeing”.

Also 21 December 2018

“I am writing to request an internal review of West Lancashire District Council’s handling of my FOI request ‘Beacon Park Golf Course Membership Contracts’. Your response refers me to Serco for the answer in respect of Beacon Park Golf Course membership contracts. Serco is merely a leisure provider for West Lancashire Borough Council. Leisure policies including golf for Senior members are the responsibility of the Borough that pays Serco an annual contract of circa £1million for efficient and affordable leisure facilities for residents of West Lancashire. Please review your response accordingly”.

23 January 2019 WLBC Response

“Freedom of Information Request 2018 / 885 – Request for Internal Review. In response to your email dated 21st December 2018 which requests an internal review of West Lancashire District Council’s handling of your FOI request entitled ‘Beacon Park Golf Course Membership Contracts’ ref 2018 / 885. In completing this review I have referred to your original request along with the response provided by Steve Kent on 21st December 2018. In your original request you made reference to “changes to membership contract terms and conditions to take effect from 1 December 2018”. You continued to ask “will WLBC Leisure Department intervene to publish the new terms and conditions on the WLBC website rather than expect golf club members to rely on Serco Leisure for this vital information”.

“You were subsequently advised by Steve Kent that the Council does not hold the information referred to in your request, namely “changes to membership contract terms and conditions to take effect from 1 December 2018”. The Freedom of Information Act only relates to recorded information held by public authorities. WLBC does not hold the information you have requested and therefore it is not possible to publish the terms and conditions on the WLBC website. Furthermore the membership contract terms and conditions form an agreement between the applicant and Serco and WLBC are not party to this agreement. It would therefore not be appropriate to publish this information on the WLBC website. For the reasons stated above I am satisfied that your request for information was handled correctly. In order to assist you and having discussed this matter with Serco, I can confirm that membership new terms and conditions are available via the following link:-https://www.westlancsleisure.com

24 January 2019 to WLBC

“Thank you for this reply, which is the usual statement, that WLBC isn’t a party to anything between individual applicants for annual golf course Membership Contracts and Serco. Of course it isn’t. But being told to ask Serco anything is unlikely to lead to a truthful answer. Serco has breached planning conditions on the Beacon Park Golf Course. Why should a WLBC council tax payer trust Serco about contracts when it didn’t keep its own planning conditions, which itself is a form of contract? As for WLBC “not holding the information”, how convenient is that? Nevertheless, I realise the matter is concluded”.