Grant Shapps MP has told chiefs at Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) that they must present him with options that can keep a threatened Sports Hall open for the community at a meeting to be held next Monday in Westminster.
The MP spoke on Monday with Joseph Rham, Regional Director, and Matt Perren, Head of Services, who apologised for not fully engaging with the community and its elected representative before announcing the closure.
They agreed that they would review the comments from last week’s three public meetings, together with a further meeting the MP held with the Gosling bosses on Friday, and prepare a number of viable options with a view to seeing if the Sports Hall could continue to serve the community.
Welwyn Hatfield’s Member of Parliament also demanded that next Monday’s meeting should disclose confidential financial information to the MP on Privy Counsellor terms; information that GLL have thus far refused to release.
Mr Shapps said, “The community have been very clear – the closure of Gosling Sports Hall would be a disaster not only for local groups, but for national sport as well. I am furious that Greenwich Leisure bosses didn’t see fit to inform me as the local MP about their closure plans. And I simply do not believe there isn’t a workable solution to keeping some or all of these Sports Hall facilities open.
“It is essential that Greenwich Leisure share this information confidentially for an open-and-honest discussion to take place about the future of the Sports Hall and I welcome their pledge to do this and present other alternative plans at our meeting next Monday.”
He cautioned the GLL executives that if the options they presented were “not good enough” he would be fully prepared to use Parliamentary Privilege to expose “a worrying pattern” that he said may be emerging wherever Greenwich Leisure took over local facilities such as Gosling.
During the call, Mr Shapps presented a number of examples where it appeared that GLL may have taken over sport complexes, only to close them after a year or so. Mr Rham and Mr Perren refuted this accusation.
Speaking after today’s discussion, Mr Shapps commented, “I have given Greenwich bosses 7 days to come up with alternative plans. During this time, I will research the GLL operation, along with its Directors. However, I will await what I hope is a more constructive approach from GLL when we meet next week in parliament. Although I have to say that currently I just don’t believe GLL is acting in the best interest of my local area or the country.
“The supposed public consultation presented a ‘fait accompli’ decision that couldn’t address the concerns of Sports Hall users, they don’t appear to have asked any of the users whether they would be prepared to pay more, they often don’t collect fees and they leave the place run-down and unstaffed all too often. They didn’t even send someone with the appropriate authority to seriously discuss their closure plans.
“However, today we had a very robust discussion, and next week I hope to discuss tangible solutions from GLL decision-makers on how to save Gosling Sports Hall. If this cannot be achieved, then I will link up with other MPs who have dealt with Greenwich bosses and I will dedicate more resources to researching whether there is a broader pattern at play at what is supposed to be a community-based charitable sports trust organisation.”
The MP concluded the meeting by reaffirming his pledge to work with GLL and the community to keep facilities open if at all possible.
Notes to Editors:
GLL announced their decision to close Gosling Sports Hall on 31st March 2019 in a 24th December Press Release.
Three public meetings took place during the week of 7th January 2019, at which Partnership Manager, Craig Woodward, was sent by the GLL to face public questions.
Grant Shapps MP met with Craig Woodward on Friday 11th January 2019 and requested a meeting at a more senior level. That discussion took place as a conference call on Monday 14th January 2019 with Joseph Rham, Regional Director, and Matt Perren, Head of Services.
During the conference call, Shapps gave GLL bosses 7 days to come up with alternative plans for the Sports Hall, saying that in the event that the closure goes ahead as currently outlined, he will use ‘Parliamentary Privilege’ (the ability to expose wrong-doing without libel laws applying) to investigate whether the Gosling experience has occurred elsewhere.
Greenwich bosses have agreed to meet at Westminster on Monday 21st January to discuss the financial position of the Sports Hall in detail and share alternative options for its future.