A FLINTSHIRE MP has raised concerns over a potential move that could see all of Aura Leisure and Libraries' services come back under the control of Flintshire Council.

The Leader last week revealed Flintshire Council is understood to be "contemplating" bringing the running of Aura's libraries, museums and play areas back in-house, whilst exploring an "alternative delivery model" for leisure services.

Aura's current funding agreement with Flintshire Council expires at the end of March, and the organisation has claimed the council previously gave assurances over a long-term contract.

Aura, which has managed Mold, Deeside, Flint and Holywell leisure centres since 2017, has raised concerns for the 289 people it employs, and is seeking legal advice on the matter. It has rejected a short-term funding extension.

Aura's CEO Mike Welch said in a letter seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “In our letter of March 20, Aura indicated that it was minded to accept the proposed short term funding arrangement but this was subject to understanding the offer and a number of assurances.

“The council's response of March 22 regrettably gives limited assurance to Aura and is not something that the Aura board is in a position to accept."


Following a meeting with Mr Welch regarding artificial pitches and a new home for Northop Hall Hockey Club, Rob Roberts MP for Delyn, expressed "profound outrage and concern" over the "lack of transparency" surrounding the decision. 

He said: “With Flintshire County Council already facing significant financial strain, this decision could exacerbate the situation considerably, potentially adding an estimated 15 per cent to the wage bill for Aura's 289 employees."

He added: “Moreover, the transfer of pension contributions from Aura's 6 per cent to the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) at 20.3 per cent could further strain the council's resources.

"The decision, if left unchallenged, could potentially escalate the council's £13 million deficit by 25 per cent or more, exacerbating the existing financial challenges faced by the region.”

The MP has called for an immediate halt to the decision-making in order to at least give the full council the opportunity to scrutinise this decision.

The MP is advocating for a thorough discussion on the potential repercussions of the decision and is pushing for a collaborative effort to explore avenues to reverse this course of action.

The Leader understands that Aura has proposed a two-week extension to the existing funding agreement. 

A letter sent by Aura to Flintshire Council which was circulated to its employees on Thursday states: "If Aura and the council are not able to agree an extension to the current funding agreement  then from Aura’s perspective:

1. Delivery would cease on 31 March 2024;

2. There would be no automatic transfer of assets and property to the council on 1 April 2024 – which would present issues for the council actually delivering; and

3. A TUPE  (Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment rights) will take place on expiry of the existing agreement. If that is to be the case then:

▪ What is the council’s practical plan in relation to this?

▪ This will cause significant difficulties if this occurs next week, due to the timescale.

▪ The council will need to let Aura know today who to tell the staff to report to on April 1 and where they should present themselves for work.

▪ Aura will need to update the staff as soon as possible.

▪ This is likely to result in a TUPE breach for both parties."

A Flintshire County Council spokesperson said: "Flintshire County Council recognises and appreciates the valuable services run by Aura since 2017 and is keen to maintain a working relationship.

"As the current funding agreement with Aura is coming to an end, the council needs to ensure it can satisfy itself that it has done the necessary due diligence and is securing the best option for the future.

"The council is keen to work with Aura to reach an agreement. In the meantime, we'd like to assure the public that we are doing all we can to ensure employees and services are protected."

Mared Eastwood, Flintshire Council's Cabinet Member for Education, Welsh Language, Culture and Leisure, added: "The council continues to work closely with Aura to deliver the best outcome for both parties and ensure the ongoing delivery of services to our communities."