THE gym at a city council-owned leisure centre has been slammed as a ‘dump’ – while broken and rusting equipment can be seen littered throughout.

Mark Lygo, who represents Churchill ward, said he had pleaded with gym bosses to make the gym at Barton Leisure Centre more presentable.

When the Oxford Mail visited yesterday, we found a catalogue of faults. Several items of gym equipment had been broken since October, while other gear was corroding, filthy or both.

WATCH WHAT WE FOUND AT THE LEISURE CENTRE YESTERDAY

At a council scrutiny committee on Tuesday, Labour councillor Mr Lygo said: “I don’t like to mention things in meetings like this. I like to be able to do things behind closed doors, but I haven’t managed to get things done.”

He added: “At Barton gym, if you compare it to the new one at Blackbird Leys or Ferry Leisure Centre (in Summertown), I think it looks like a dump. You go there and it’s very poorly maintained.”

Fellow Labour councillor James Fry said there are items in the council’s Fusion-run leisure centres that have ‘not been repaired for years’.

Barton Leisure was refurbished and extended in 2011 after being built in 2007.

The bleak assessments come as Fusion, the not-for-profit group that runs the council’s leisure centres, said attendance figures were up on last year following a huge slump. But councillors said they remain sceptical whether those numbers are correct.

A locker was left unfixed in Barton’s Leisure Centre’s changing rooms, the men’s toilets were missing light bulbs, while in the gym, trodden chewing gum and filth lay next to an exercise bike.

Visibly thick dirt lay on the gym’s skirting boards and walls were grimy.

Adult monthly membership at the leisure centre costs £49 and includes access to its swimming pool, gym and classes.

Fusion also runs Oxford Sports Park, which serves as Oxford United’s training ground, along with Leys Pools and Leisure Centre in Blackbird Leys.

The city council’s contract with Fusion also includes running Oxford Spires Sport and Fitness, based as Oxford Spires Academy in East Oxford, Hinksey Outdoor Pool and Ferry Leisure Centre.

Both the council and Fusion have said it is struggling in a leisure market dominated by luxury and budget gyms in the city and across the country.

Fusion’s Mark Munday said councillors should be wary of comparing what is on offer at the city council’s facilities to deals at other leisure centres.

While he said one-off costs to use the city council’s leisure centres are ‘a lot more expensive’ than budget gyms, he said members’ opportunities to be able to use swimming pools at different times of the day and being able to attend classes meant they were not comparable.

Mr Munday said Barton’s leisure centre has ‘benefitted from an improvement quality scheme’ carried out by painting and decorators completing City and Guilds courses in over the last year.

Figures showed that in 2017/18, visitor numbers to the council’s leisure centres had slumped by nearly a quarter – dropping from 1.37m in 2016/17 to 1.030m in 2017/18.

Craig Simmons, a Green Party councillor, said an apparent 22 per cent increase in visitor numbers for 2018/19 in relation to last year’s figures showed the figures were ‘crawling from a very low base’.

He said other data from Fusion was ambiguous and ‘didn’t give a huge amount of confidence’.

It cost £8.50 for a one-off pass to use Barton Leisure Centre’s gym yesterday, while a monthly membership for Pure Gym based in Oxford city centre is available for £19.99.

Andrew Gant, the leader of the city’s Liberal Democrats and the chairman of the scrutiny committee, said: “We’ve been very concerned about the Fusion contract both in terms of its sustainability and a service to customers. There’s been lots of anecdotal evidence, especially from residents, about repairs not being made and they’ve certainly increased.”

Figures showed visitors from black and ethnic minority backgrounds had soared by 45 per cent in just a year – from 27,963 to 40,592. Fusion said it had ‘confidence’ in its data.

Earlier this year, the scrutiny committee ordered an audit of Fusion’s financial figures relating to the council’s contract. That will be completed over coming months.

Before the city council signed a contract with Fusion in 2009, leisure centres cost the authority £2m a year. They are now costing about £100,000 annually.

Linda Smith, deputy leader of the city council, said: “The Council’s leisure centres across the city, including Barton Leisure Centre, are run by Fusion, who have full responsibility for their repair and maintenance.

“The Council undertakes regular and robust client audits of the leisure facilities and through these visits, we are aware that there are some outstanding items such as equipment repairs at Barton Leisure Centre, which we have raised at a senior level at Fusion to be rectified as a matter of urgency.

“We’re committed to providing high quality leisure centres that are maintained to high standards and we will be working with Fusion to ensure that the outstanding repairs at Barton Leisure Centre are addressed urgently. We encourage our customers to report any issues that they may find when they visit the site directly to Fusion, so that these may be dealt with in the quickest way.”

Ian Brooke, head of community services at the city council, said: “We’ve seen in Oxford a significant number of budget gyms, which are part of our competitive mix but also outdoor activities. We’re operating the leisure service in a really challenging change in context. That’s making it difficult for our operator Fusion and also operators up and down the country. The margins aren’t there, it’s a harder job to try to retain the staff.”