A NEW audit into city leisure centre figures will be held after major concerns about their accuracy, in what is an extremely unusual move.

Fusion Lifestyle runs all of Oxford City Council’s leisure centres – but last year the number of people visiting them fell by nearly 350,000, raising worries about how they were being managed and what they offer.

But now the authority will hold another audit into figures provided by Fusion after councillors said they were concerned they might be wrong.

The cross-party scrutiny committee found earlier this month that Fusion had claimed 12.2 per cent more money had been generated by Ferry Leisure Centre in Summertown in the first quarter of 2018/19 in comparison to the first quarter of 2017/18.

But other figures showed a ‘significant decline’ in visitors there.

A response from Fusion was included in council papers.

It said accounting reasons explained why there was not a ‘direct correlation’ between the figures over the two periods.

But the city council’s executive board agreed to hold an independent audit into Fusion’s figures after the scrutiny committee’s recommendation.

Andrew Gant, chairman of the scrutiny committee and the leader of the Liberal Democrat council group, said the committee was ‘very concerned’ over the figures it had been provided with.

He said Fusion’s performance was a ‘high priority’ for the committee and that it would ‘benefit from officer attendance and good quality data’ in the future.

A leading reason for the city council outsourcing leisure centres to Fusion is the cost. Before it began its contract with the non-for-profit group in 2009, running leisure centres cost the authority £2m a year. Now it pays Fusion about £100,000 a year.

Fusion says figures are down across Oxford because of increased competition from budget gyms. The popularity of events including mass participation events, like park runs, have also piled on pressure, the company said.

In papers sent to the council’s executive board by its scrutiny committee, it said: “The committee recognises that in order to be effective in their roles, members and officers who oversee the Fusion contract need to be able to access the right information.”

Fusion was contacted for a comment.