Councillors have voted unanimously to outsource the running of the Derbyshire Dales’ four leisure centres.
At a special meeting of Derbyshire Dales District Council last Thursday, councillors agreed a ‘tendering exercise’ should start next May concerning Matlock, Wirksworth, Bakewell and Ashbourne leisure centres.
The council, which will retain ownership of the buildings, will make a final decision in 2018.
Councillor Lewis Rose, leader of the council, told the meeting: “This is one of the most important decisions we’ve needed to make for some time as it affects the whole of the district.
“This is a discretionary service we don’t have to provide but I like to think over the years we have not blown our own trumpet enough about the excellence of the service we have provided.
“Our record has been an excellent one of which we can be justifiably proud.
“That is why this is such a fundamental decision because it might break some of our hearts to feel we are parting with a great friend.
“But I don’t think we are parting – we are entering into an arrangement with an operator who will have to provide that service to an agreed specification – and it’s absolutely vital we get that specification right.”
He added: “If we are being honest with each other and with the public, if we were not to make a decision like this we would have to make some pretty horrendous decisions which might have involved closure of our leisure centres or shutting down some other service. Accepting the recommendation is an easier option than facing what might be the reality if we don’t.”