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Refunds could cost Craven Pool and Fitness Centre £60,000
9:00am Thursday 3rd October 2013 in News
Management of Skipton’s Craven Pool and Fitness centre has been compared to Fawlty Towers following a damning report.
Although it is one of the few council-owned leisure centres in the country not to run at a loss, an internal audit revealed 11 main areas of concern, some of which could cost the council thousands of pounds.
The 36 page report – described by one committee member as the worst he had seen in six years – revealed serious discrepancies in cashing up procedures, although it was stressed that there was no evidence of fraud.
While angry at the report, opposition councillors refused to blame staff, saying there was a lack of support from the council’s senior management team, such as adequate training and being made aware of changes to legislation.
The report stated that no one at the centre fully knew how the ten-year-old computer software worked or how to operate the till.
There was also concern that the same person was responsible for all cashing up procedures, including the banking.
In the last financial year, more than £3,000 had been banked than had actually been put through the till and on 340 days the amounts had not balanced.
The pool manager was aware of a number of “sleeping members” but was unaware of new legislation which meant the 200 people who no longer used the service could claim their money back – estimated at a potential cost to the council of up to £60,000.
The centre, which currently has an annual income of £1.1 million, was also said to lack proper signage. And the report stated that with changes, it could generate even greater income.
Martin Helm, audit manager, said: “Although there was a number of cash discrepancies, there was no evidence of fraud, it was more about not understanding how the system works.”
The member of staff on reception who accepted payment on the main counter as well as cashing up and banking the income needed to have duties segregated because it “placed that person at risk of being accused of misappropriating income”.
Committee chairman Coun Stephen Place (ind, Sutton), welcomed the report and recommended noting its contents.
He said the report would be used to improve the centre and to keep pace with growing demand.
But others said action needed to be taken and further called for the urgent intervention of the director of services Paul Ellis.
Coun Graham Beck (Ind, Glusburn) said he regarded the report as the worst he had seen in six years, but stressed it was not the fault of the staff who worked at the centre, but of senior management.
He criticised a lack of support from the council’s IT department and said for the pool staff to be expected to understand how to operate the computers without training was “appalling”.
“Where is the executive senior management on this? We have a system here that is completely failing, I would describe it as Fawlty Towers-type management,” he said.
And he asked how seriously the report had been taken and whether it had been taken up by the council’s corporate leadership team of senior officers.
“The real key issue here is the complete failure and lack of support from management,” he said.
Coun Philip Barrett (Ind, Glusburn) said the report had uncovered some damning issues and also criticised those higher up for the problems.
“I am very concerned about this report. I hope that senior management are taking this seriously.”
After the meeting, a statement issued by the council said that it welcomed the report which had been done at the “request of the council leadership team three years ago to make sure systems were fit for purpose”.
It said the Sportsoft system had been installed ten years ago when the centre was much smaller. Since then, membership had grown by more than 130 per cent and swimming by more than 40 per cent.
David Smurthwaite, senior management for planning and regeneration, said staffing levels were low and staff were required to carry out more tasks in order to control costs.
“We are reviewing staffing and one of the recommendations will be to increase the number of administrative hours in place because of the increased scale of the operation.”
He said it was expected that the review would be completed by the end of the month.
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