Poorer people could be priced out of keeping fit if private trusts "driven by profit" are brought in to run East Staffordshire's leisure centres, it has been claimed.
Peter Edginton, chairman of Uttoxeter Forum 50 Plus, is worried plans to employ a private trust to run leisure facilities could penalise those on lower incomes.
The forum chairman told borough council culture boss Colin Whittaker of his concerns at a Uttoxeter Town Hall meeting on Tuesday, August 14.
Councillor Whittaker revealed five bidders were competing for a 10-year contract to run Uttoxeter and Meadowside leisure centres.
The Tory councillor said East Staffordshire Borough Council, which owns the centres, would enforce clauses ensuring standards did not drop.
He also told the forum £600,000 of the current £1.6 million cultural services bill would be saved each year through the move to bring in a private firm to run the centres.
However, Mr Edginton, a former Labour councillor and mayor of Uttoxeter, said he feared the cost of using the leisure centre would inevitably rise.
He claimed: "Health and well-being is a very important aspect of modern living.
"A company coming in whose first aim is to make profit is going to introduce prices that will create a situation where the people who can least afford it can't go in there to swim or do other activities. Profit will be the main thing on their minds."
Councillor Whittaker gave assurances the plan was not just aimed at saving money but that quality was "the main focus".
The prices of leisure passes, "anything for the disabled" and centre staff's jobs and wages would also be contractually protected, according to the Abbey Ward politician.
He said: "It will be more of a business environment for most users and we can't promise prices will be the same as they are now.
"As it will be a business, it's got to break even. No-one can say certain sections of people won't have to pay more.
"The trusts would have better contacts with the press and will sell the centre better than the council can.
"So hopefully they'll attract more people and that'll mean more staff."
Councillor Whittaker said trusts can make savings through avoiding business rates, "buying everything in larger quantities" and taking advantage of VAT relief.
He said: "Since austerity measures came in, the council has had a 79 per cent reduction in government support, which has been really challenging.
"We're running at a slight deficit this year and next year that deficit will be £500,000, rising to £1.2 million by the end of the current parliament.
"There were four options for us to save some of that £1.6 million cultural services cost - including selling our services, which is not being considered, and out-sourcing them to a trust.
"Other options would be to create our own trust, but the cost of this would be quite high, so that's been put to one side, or continue running the services as we are doing, which would, again be very expensive.
"We've decided to put our facilities out to tender for trusts, but no decisions have been made at this stage."
Also put out for tender have been Shobnall Sports Complex, the Brewhouse Arts Centre, the town hall function suite and the market hall, all in Burton.
The council has invested more than £10 million in its facilities since 2010.