The notification by the Sports Consultancy on behalf of Arun District Council to Inspire Leisure that it will not be allowed to submit a full bid to run leisure services beyond March, 2016, appears to have come as a surprise to most councillors.
Indeed most, other than the Arun cabinet, appear to have read it in the newspapers first.
Not that anybody is saying that Inspire will be the best bid put forward, but nobody can possibly know until they have seen it. And they will not be able to see it, because Inspire has been ruled out as a result of a pre-qualification questionnaire which appears to have put a great deal of emphasis on turnover and size.
However, back in 2006, Inspire was specifically created so that Arun could pass onto it responsibility for leisure, with the notion that Inspire could spend less on VAT, raise more funds, and save Arun considerable sums of money. Inspire’s size is Arun’s creation and it seems unfair Inspire should be excluded because of that.
Arun could have gone for a tendering process which allowed Inspire, as well as the other organisations interested, to put forward full proposals and have them all assessed. For some reason the council was recommended to adopt a ‘restricted’ procurement route, which would mean those allowed to put in a full bid would be whittled down to a shortlist. However, it does seem perverse that the organisation which currently runs the services, and does what has been asked of it, is judged unsuitable to put in a bid to continue that work.
The leisure working group, which is supposed to scrutinise all these matters, was told about the use of a restricted procedure in a couple of sentences in a report, but given no detail whatsoever about what that meant. It seems unlikely that a pre-tendering questionnaire could have been put together by Arun and its consultants and nobody would realise that Inspire would not get past it.
I am sure that Inspire and all its staff have worked incredibly hard to get from what was an unsatisfactory start to where they are today and it is a kick in the teeth for them to be unable to share the plans they had for the future.
Let us all hope that everything that has been done is above board or this whole process will become expensive and messy. Injustice has to be rectified. Councillors and interested members of the public such as myself should perhaps have questioned in far more detail what a ‘restricted’ procurement exercise was.
However when it is presented in a report with hardly any detail or explanation, these things get missed, and it is because of this, that there needs to be much more openness and explanation of the way in which matters are conducted.
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