Pool tendering cleared as ‘OK’

Richard Ellis, who was shortlisted to take on the running of St Annes Swimming Baths (May 2010).

Richard Ellis, who was shortlisted to take on the running of St Annes Swimming Baths (May 2010).

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A CONTROVERSIAL tendering process into the takeover of St Annes Swimming Pool has been cleared by inspectors.

Businessman Richard Ellis called in auditors KPMG to investigate the process which saw him lose out to the YMCA in his bid to take charge of the pool.

And Fylde Council has revealed it has now been cleared of any wrongdoing by KPMG – despite the fact the final report has not yet been filed.

A council spokesman said: “The external auditor has confirmed the selection process had been handled fairly.

“They have conducted a very thorough review of the process and we are pleased to say they agree it was carried out in accordance with all relevant legal requirements and protocols.

“We never doubted that the process had been fair and transparent as officers were concerned only to get the most advantageous result for the taxpayer.”

But KPMG said although they have given Fylde feedback on the audit, the entire report has yet to be completely finalised.

Mr Ellis today hit out at the council for releasing information before the investigation is complete.

He told The Gazette: “The situation is that the audit is not finished yet.

“I never questioned whether the tendering process was followed, my complaint was based on the decision-making process.

“The council did exactly what they had to do to the letter – and I’ve never argued with that.

“But I have argued over why they made me go through the tender process when I was never going to get it and why they wasted my money.”

Mr Ellis’ Fylde Leisure bid involved creating a new fitness suite, completely refurbishing the pool and offering free access to the borough’s sport facilities for all under-16s.

Mr Ellis said this bid was £1.6m cheaper than the YMCA’s, but the council said it was concerned operating the pool on that basis would lead to it closing again.

The pool was closed by the council in 2008 but they have said the YMCA deal – which has also seen a new gym created at the premises on the Promenade – has saved taxpayers £178,000 per year.