A CAMPAIGNER has hailed a move to strip a leisure company of its Harrow contract but says it should have come sooner.

Leisure Connection will no longer run Harrow Leisure Centre, Hatch End Swimming Pool and the Roger Bannister Sports Centre after the job was handed to charity Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL) for the next two years.

The council says the move will save £800,000 and was designed “to make sure we are getting the very best services and value for money for our residents”.

Paul Burns, who runs website Leisure Connection Watch, said: “Given Leisure’s Connection repeated shortcomings in Harrow and their many failings elsewhere, it is very disappointing that they held onto the Harrow Council leisure contract for as long as they did.”

The Wembley Park resident added: “If councillors and council officers had really been on the ball, the company would have lost their contract years ago.

“My main concern now is that budget cuts will prevent the new contractor from making the significant improvements needed.”

Leisure Connection has faced fierce criticism from users and Mr Burns catalogued a series of alleged failings, including its handling of complaints and dealing with maintenance issues.

Councillor Bill Stephenson, now leader of the council, spoke out against the company while he was leader of the Labour opposition.

His party took control in the May elections and by August the firm's Harrow regional manager had been removed on the request of council officers.

Cllr Stephenson said in January the service had improved since the summer and the company was promised a two year extension but that was overturned, with the authority stating it wanted to save money.

Councillor Thaya Idaikkadar, responsible for major contracts at the council, said: “We were very impressed by Greenwich Leisure Ltd’s bid.

“We will be expecting them to drive improvement to services and to encourage more residents to take advantage of their local leisure centre.

“A team of officers has worked very hard to ensure improved quality and increased income for the council over the next two years which, in the current financial climate, will be a great result.”

The contract was handed to GLL at a meeting on Thursday and the company will take over in late spring.