asked Her Majesty's Government:
What rules exist for the procurement of local authority leisure facilities; and who sets those rules.
Subject to their legal duties, including the duty of best value and public procurement law, local authorities are responsible for taking their own procurement decisions. The DCMS has not issued guidance to local authorities which opt to use a leisure trust model for the management of local leisure facilities. However, every local authority is under a statutory duty to establish an adequate and effective system of financial management and arrangements for the management of risk. The authority's chief finance officer also has duties to report to the council on proposed decisions or actions that would be unlawful or likely to cause a loss.
The duty of best value, as laid down in legislation, requires authorities to make arrangements to secure continuous improvement in the way in which they exercise their functions, having regard to a combination of economy, efficiency and effectiveness. It is for them to decide, in the first place, whether the duty of best value can only be met by conducting a tendering exercise. Following the recent consultation exercise, current best-value guidance set out in ODPM Circular 03/2003 will be replaced by the new Creating Strong, Safe and Prosperous Communities guidance. The draft consultation guidance made clear that local authorities should adopt practices that are fair and open—that is, neutral between different types of providers—and should ensure that any procurement decision, including retaining services in-house, is undertaken and justified in an open and transparent way. Any specific complaints that best value is not being met in a particular set of circumstances would need to be addressed in the first instance to the authority's external auditor.