“We have seen huge leisure companies collapse before or they have been taken over by other operators and Merlin might be no different”
Blackpool’s Tory group leader has warned the council is “putting all its eggs in one basket” after unveiling Merlin as the new operator of the Sandcastle Waterpark.
The leisure giant now has nine attractions in Blackpool including in the council-owned Blackpool Tower, as well as Madame Tussauds’s and Peter Rabbit Explore and Play in the Golden Mile Centre, which is also owned by the council. Coun Tony Williams, leader of the Conservative group, said the move came “as no surprise” given the existing link-ups between the town hall and Merlin.
He said: “We have seen huge leisure companies collapse before or they have been taken over by other operators and Merlin might be no different. I don’t think there were any other official tenders for this appointment although two other major operators have complained the opportunity wasn’t advertised sufficiently to the leisure industry, and by the time they found out it was too late to put a business plan together.
“Putting all your eggs in one basket not only stops new investment from coming into the town, it also stifles competition and growth. Merlin is an extremely competent and successful operator, but I do think the council could have widened their search and looked at new horizons.”
But the council said the tender process had been open and fair to all potential bidders, with three expressions of interest and one tender received. Council leader Coun Lynn Williams said: “The tender was advertised on the council procurement portal, in accordance with procurement regulations and as is standard procedure with the advertising of opportunities such as these.
“The agreement being entered into is for the short term.
“One of the benefits of the agreement is that it allows us to review proposals, as submitted by a world class waterpark management company, on potential future arrangements and developments for the longer term.
“Merlin could not have legitimately been excluded from the tender process and on this basis had the opportunity of securing the contract.”
It was announced on Wednesday August 31 Merlin had been awarded the contract to operate the Sandcastle or an initial period of two years with effect from September.
- 05:25, 7 SEP 2022