Jubilee Pool: Takeover group must share profits with the city council

Mayor Marvin Rees said it was a ‘responsible’ demand by the local authority

<p>Jubilee Pool was saved from permanent closure earlier this year </p>

Jubilee Pool was saved from permanent closure earlier this year

A community group in South Bristol will have to pay a share of its profits to the council if it takes over the running of a much-loved public swimming pool in Knowle.

Jubilee Pool was saved from permanent closure earlier this year after Bristol City Council bowed to public pressure and reopened it when coronavirus restrictions allowed in April.

But the council still insists it cannot afford to keep the pool open, and plans to shut it next year unless it can find a community group or commercial operator to take responsibility for the facility.

Community group Friends of Jubilee Pool, who say the pool is vital for residents, is putting together a bid and has until January 7 to submit its formal ‘expression of interest’ to manage the facility.

If the bid is successful, which will only be known after the Labour administration decides on the future of the pool in February, the council will hand over a lease of up to 35 years in a ‘community asset transfer’.

But information provided to Friends of Jubilee Pool shows that the group would have to hand a percentage of the profits back to the council if the pool becomes “very successful and profitable” under their management.

The prospectus for the community asset transfer says: “The lease would be subject to a profit-sharing agreement that will only be operable after the fifth year and only if net profit exceeds a pre-determined threshold.

“This is to enable the council to share in future profits in lieu of rent in the event that the future use of the property is very successful and profitable.”

No further detail about the profit-share arrangement was provided in the prospectus.

Such arrangements are standard practice in community asset transfer agreements.

But Debbie Reid from Friends of Jubilee Pool said it was “a concern” as the group did not know what the percentage was.

“From our perspective, we would like any profit made to be reinvested into the fabric of the building as it has been neglected for so long,” she said.

Knowle councillor Gary Hopkins asked city mayor Marvin Rees to reconsider imposing the profit-share arrangement during member question time ahead of this month’s full council meeting on December 7.

Mr Rees said in a written answer that a profit-share clause is a standard requirement for assets, including those in community asset transfers, that have the potential to generate a substantial operating profit.

He said: “It’s the responsible thing to do as a local authority to make sure that, if we are going to go through a community asset transfer route and it is going to be a very profitable venture, that we look out for the financial interests of the authority.

“Otherwise it would be an irresponsible disposal of a very profitable council asset.”

The prospectus says cabinet members will decide on the future of Jubilee Pool in February.

If the community asset transfer proceeds, a final decision on the successful bid will be made by the end of May 2022 and the pool would be under new management by July.

The current operator Parkwood Leisure has a contract to run the pool until March next year.

Mr Rees said the council would extend that contract if necessary.