A NEW firm to run leisure centres in Ryedale through a contract which could be worth as much as £15m is expected to be appointed this summer.

Ryedale District Council wants to appoint an external company to manage, operate and maintain Derwent Pool and Fitness Centre, in Norton, and Pickering’s Ryedale Pool and Northern Ryedale Leisure Centre for at least 10 years, with bidders having been invited to submit their proposals.

The authority plans to produce a initial long-list of between four and six candidates next month and whittle this down to three by the end of April, with the successful bidder taking over this autumn. However, an update on the process by officers has warned that the council does not have the resources for “detailed monitoring and management” of the contract, the value of which is expected to be between £7.5m and £15m.

The council wants the contract to help increase sporting participation in Ryedale annually and support new clubs and better facilities. It hopes the deal would run for 10 years, with a potential five-year extension, although it has said it would consider a different contract length if it was more “economically advantageous”.

In 2012, the Ryedale and Derwent pools were marked out as needing about £1m of investment over a 10-year period, with £365,000 of upgrades needed by 2016 to safeguard their future.

A report by head of facilities Phil Long said the contract would include performance agreements and requirements for improving the district’s leisure facilities.

“There is a risk that the greater the levels of constraints on the contract, the higher the eventual price tendered for the service,” it said. “The specification is flexibile for the contractor while ensuring the council’s needs are met.”

The chosen firm will also have control over prices, although bids will have to outline plans for fees and any increases would have to be index-linked or approved by the council.