COUNCIL workers in Neath Port Talbot are calling for leisure services to be brought back into public hands ahead of a key meeting on the issue on Tuesday (February 1).

Local authority leaders are set to discuss the future of services in the area this week and UNISON, which is the largest trade union representing staff at Neath Port Talbot Council, wants to see them run publicly and not for private gain.

The call for public ownership also comes as work on a major leisure development including a swimming pool, gym and library in the centre of Neath is well under way and due for completion later this year.

Leisure services in Neath Port Talbot are currently run by Celtic Leisure and last year UNISON commissioned a report from the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) which said the council should consider all options for the future of services in the area and allow any issues identified to be fully analysed by elected councillors.

UNISON also launched a campaign in March 2021 calling for leisure services to be operated by the council and more than 3,800 people have now signed an online petition created to support this.

The trade union says any money generated from the area’s leisure should be reinvested for the good of the people of Neath Port Talbot and not for private profit.

Mike Bendyk, UNISON Neath Port Talbot branch representative, said: “As building work on the leisure centre, swimming pool and library in the centre of Neath gathers pace there has never been a more crucial time to call for leisure services to be brought back into the hands of the communities they serve.

“For many years the site of the new development lay dormant and, now that we are seeing it take shape and grow every day, we need to make sure projects like this are purely focused on improving the health and well-being of everyone in this area.

“It’s fantastic that, after so many years, we are finally getting a huge investment in leisure in this area and we now need to see these services being delivered for the benefit of everyone in Neath Port Talbot. “

Joe Donnelly, UNISON Cymru/Wales regional organiser, said: “Tomorrow (Tuesday, February 1) Neath Port Talbot Council has a huge opportunity to transform leisure services in this area by backing our call to bring them back under democratic control and run in the hands of the public.

“Placing services such as swimming pools, gyms and leisure centres into public ownership would mean entrusting the future of these vital services to the people who know them best.

“Now, as we are seeing the future of leisure in Neath Port Talbot taking shape with the development in Neath town centre, we believe it is time for them to be delivered for the benefit of people living and working in these communities and not for private profit.”