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Labour councillors call for golf courses to not be transferred to leases

At the Full Council Meeting on Thursday 17th July, the Labour Group will be proposing an amendment to exclude Broome Manor and Highworth Golf Courses from being transferred on long-term leases to a private company called Twigmarket Ltd. It is proposed that Broome Manor Golf Course be leased to this private company for 75 years and Highworth Golf Course to be leased for 25 years.

In 2013/14 Broome Manor Golf Course made a surplus of £60,000 and Highworth Golf Course required a subsidy of £33,000. Broome Manor Golf Course’s catering made a deficit in 2013/14 of £70,000 which was as a result of £147,600 of recent refurbishment to the clubhouse’s restaurant and bar, which is expected to be paid back over five years from increased income and then generating significant surpluses over the next ten years.

Additional costs of marketing, insurance, ongoing repairs and maintenance cost adds an additional charge of £49,300.

The Labour Group support the Cabinet’s proposal to find alternative recreational solutions to Moredon Golf Course and Rodbourne Cheney Councillors are working with council officers with this purpose.

The Labour Group have also expressed concern over the suitability of Twigmarket to run Broome Manor and Highworth Golf Courses. According to a Company Check report Twigmarket only had £6,064 in their bank account in 2012. Upon inspecting the Company Check reports, Professor Ken Peasnell of Lancaster University, who is a professional in financial statement analysis, has warned the Council against transferring the golf courses to this company, saying that the public information available indicates that the company has not the financial resources to take on a venture of the scale being proposed.

The Labour Group’s Shadow Lead for Leisure, Councillor Jim Robbins, said:

“The Labour Group’s position is that with the leisure facilities, there is a case for transferring the running of these facilities to the private sector if they can eliminate the leisure subsidy. However Broome Manor and Highworth Golf Courses are completely different. Broome Manor made a profit last year of £60,000 and although it’s catering facility made a loss that was because of the upgrading of the restaurant and bar which is expected to generate large profits over the next ten years.

With this in mind why would Swindon Council want to transfer facilities that will make it money and help mitigate the cuts that have to be made in other areas of the Council’s budget? If Labour were in power we would be looking to keep Broome Manor and Highworth Golf Courses as Municipal courses, generating a profit for the Council and retaining control over the vast land that these courses occupy.

We have also sought independent professional advice regarding Twigmarkets statement of accounts and it has raised concerns that if the Council is to transfer the golf courses on long-term leases, whether Twigmarket is a suitable company to transfer the courses to. We have written to Councillor Williams asking him to make clear what due diligence has been done with this company.

So with the golf courses paying for themselves with the potential to generate a strong profit back to the council and questions being raised regarding the suitability of the company proposed to take on the running of the golf courses, now is not the time to lease these courses and we will be arguing against any lease at the Full Council Meeting.”