Staff members in driving seat to take over at Tooting Bec track

Published: Friday 28th November 14

The team of people who work at the Tooting Bec athletics track will be offered the chance to take over its day-to-day management and run it as a social enterprise, councillors heard last night (Thursday).

Councillors who sit on the community services scrutiny committee were discussing who would be best placed to run the track day-to-day and ensure it continues offering residents, schools and local sports clubs the same high-quality affordable and accessible sports facility in the years ahead.

Discussions have already been held with staff who work at the track and they will be able to put forward their own proposals to take over its management and run it as part of the proposed leisure and culture staff mutual which is expected to take over the running a number of town hall services from next year

The new model could be similar to the one currently in place for the borough’s libraries, which are now managed by a charitable social enterprise.

This change in the day-to-day running of the boroughs libraries is saving council tax payers nearly £900,000 every year and has meant that none of Wandsworth’s 11 libraries have had to close. This is in stark contrast to many other London boroughs who have not yet embraced this type of management model and instead been forced to close their local libraries.

As well as the existing staff team, the council will also be seeking to generate expressions of interest in running the track, its gym and its field sports facilities from local sports clubs, voluntary groups, charities and health and fitness professionals. All the bidders would be required to keep the track as a fully open, accessible and affordable public sports venue. 

The track is one of two Olympic standard running circuits in the borough – the other is in Battersea Park.

The council has maintained both to a very high standard. The track at Tooting Bec has recently benefited from £150,000 of investment, with funding obtained from Sport England and the London Marathon Trust to upgrade its eight lane running track plus the addition of a new fitness studio and a brand new hammer cage along with improvements to its long jump, pole vault, hammer and discus facilities.

Battersea Park’s Millennium Arena recently saw work completed on a £100,000 scheme to refurbish its eight lane running track.

Community services spokesman Cllr Jonathan Cook said: “We believe that the best management model for this type of community facility is to have it run on a day to day basis by the people who know it best. They are better placed than anyone to know what works well and most importantly what the public wants.

“The existing staff team fit that description very well – but so do the many sports clubs who use the track regularly as well as local voluntary groups, charities and indeed local residents who have the kind of expertise needed to run the track successfully.

“We are approaching this whole process with a completely open mind. Our only aim is to select the people who will do the best job of running this much loved and popular sports facility.

 “As we have seen with our libraries you can involve outside expertise to run services very successfully indeed, providing the same or an even better level of service at much better value for money for local taxpayers.
“We are very confident that by following this path we can keep the track open for many years to come and keep it affordable for local people to use.

“We are enormously proud of the fantastic sports facilities we offer in Wandsworth. Very few boroughs anywhere in the country have even one Olympic standard running track while we are blessed with two. We want to keep it that way.”

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