MANAGEMENT of Wirral’s municipal and mini golf courses could be transferred into private hands after a recent marketing exercise demonstrated interest from specialist operators.
Officers insist that the market response gave a clear indication that it would be possible to protect the council’s requirement for “affordable and accessible golf” in the peninsula while eliminating a local authority subsidy running into hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Hoylake Municipal Golf Course would be excluded from the operation as officers believe that a “local solution” might prove better value.
Income from local authority-controlled golf courses has fallen significantly over the last two years triggering fears that subsidy could increase.
However interest in the sport generated by next month’s Open Golf championship at Royal Liverpool, in addition to a “re-branding” of the golf package in Wirral had led to expectations of £50,000 minimum increase in golf income for the present financial year.
A report to next week's meeting of Wirral Council's cabinet indicates a high level of interest in all course from a range of “mid-scale” operators and a moderate level of interest from large operators.
Officers are seeking cabinet approval to start the next stage of work to a more formal procurement exercise.
This will involve securing detailed proposals for the granting of a lease and concession agreement for up to 25 years.
To secure the best possible deal officers have worked closely with Cheshire West and Chester Council.
The report observes: “By widening the scope for operators to express interest in specific courses, it has been established that ‘economies of scale’ are likely when groups of courses can be managed together.”
It also warns that if the council did not press ahead with transformation plans for the golf courses then major reductions in the leisure services budget over the next two years would not be delivered.
The venues involved in the possible transfer are Arrowe Park, Brackenwood and Warren (Wallasey) golf courses; Wallasey Beach mini golf, Arrowe Park pitch and putt and King’s Parade (New Brighton) mini golf.
Cllr Chris Meaden, cabinet member for leisure, sport and culture said: "At this stage no decision has been made.
"Cabinet will be discussing next week whether to further investigate the potential for our municipal golf courses to be managed and maintained by an external provider, but we are clear that at the heart of any change would be a commitment to protecting affordable access to pay and play golf for local people."