Following months of discussion about the future of Birmingham’s municipal golf courses, Councillor Martin Mullaney, Cabinet Member for Leisure, Sport and Culture, is seeking permission to select an external operator to manage the service.
Councillor Mullaney wants to conduct a procurement process using the ‘competitive dialogue’ method, where instead of providing a detailed tender for bidders to respond to from the outset, dialogue is allowed with selective suppliers to identify and define solutions to meet the requirements of the council.
The aim is to secure capital investment through a private partner to improve the standard of existing council golf courses and facilities.
The council is also working with local schools to encourage children to take up golf, and planning to improve ‘pitch and putt’ facilities in parks, so that more people have easy access to the sport. A new Birmingham Junior Golf Development Partnership has also been established to coordinate Birmingham’s ‘Golf Roots’ programme for 2010, to find new players and talent for the game, and to show that golf can be for everyone.
The specification and contract for the new provider will also include delivering a more environmentally sustainable service, with due regard for nature and landscapes.
In January 2010, following an exercise to gauge and gather interest in the council’s golf portfolio, over 30 expressions of interest were received from the golf industry, demonstrating an appetite within the market for Birmingham’s golf courses.
It is likely that the chosen contractor will pay an annual rent to the council, providing the potential over time to turn the current deficit to a surplus. These investments will be retained by the council at the end of the lease.
Councillor Martin Mullaney, Cabinet Member for Leisure, Sport and Culture, comments: “Over the last five years, the council’s golf service has been losing more and more money. There has been a lot of speculation in recent months about the council’s commitment to golf. The new provider will in effect be contracted by the council to manage a value for money golf service, and to increase access to the sport.
“I have been very impressed by the passion of local golfers who want to revive our courses, and this gives me confidence that we can have a renaissance of golf in Birmingham. Golf is a great sport, I want to see more people from all ages and backgrounds becoming interested in the game, but that will only happen through significant capital investment that the council simply cannot afford without an external partner.
“I will be insisting that our new partner continues to offer affordable golf and to deliver price concessions to pensioners, students and the unemployed using the city’s Passport to Leisure scheme.”
A full business case as per the council’s procedures has been produced which includes a procurement timetable and a risk assessment. Prospective partners, identified through the process, will need to go through various checks such as finance, competency and eligibility at the pre-qualification stage of the process.
Golf participation has reduced by approximately one third over the past five years, which equates to an estimated 100,000 rounds of golf, as more players defect to private clubs with better facilities. It is predicted that this year’s numbers will decline even further, and be the lowest in the last 30 years. Successive bad summers have also affected figures, and there have been seven major arson attacks on council clubhouses in the past five years.
Birmingham City Council, working with its partners, will be driving the biggest urban junior golf programme in the country during 2010 called ‘Golf roots’. Supported by golf charity the Golf Foundation, the initiative offers young people their first try at golf.
A new Birmingham Junior Golf Development Partnership has been established to coordinate Birmingham’s Golf Roots programme for 2010. This is a major opportunity to find new players and talent for the game and to show that golf can be for everyone.
Golf Roots is designed to create a ‘player pathway’ from schools to golf clubs and driving ranges, in many cases giving children who would never have even given golf a thought, a try at a sport which can offer them considerable playing, social and health benefits as they develop into adulthood.
For more information on Golf Roots go to www.golf-foundation.org