Agenda item

Freedom Leisure Annual Review OSC23-050

Reporting Person: Steve May


The Committee considered a report on the performance of Freedom Leisure over the past year, reviewing the complaints, feedback and achievements across the range of services provided by Freedom Leisure.  The year had been very positive with significant growth in services, though this was due in part to the first full-year operation of the Eastwood Centre.  Steve May, the Leisure Services Manager, confirmed that Freedom Leisure had achieved all the targets for the year.

The Chairman noted that the flooring to the showers in the Pool in the Park had been replaced for a second time.  The Committee was advised that the work had been undertaken to address issues which had come as result of the initial work.  The replacement of the flooring had been undertaken by the Contractor with no cost to Freedom Leisure or the Council.

Reference was made to the contract with the NHS to deliver a range of health products and projects, and it was confirmed that the contract achieved a surplus for the Council.

Attention turned to the Pool in the Park and it was noted that a number of complaints had been received in respect of unplanned pool closures.  The Committee was advised that the closures were often as a result of a lifeguard failing to arrive on time, sometimes due to illness.  There was a national shortage of lifeguards and Freedom Leisure was actively promoting opportunities through recruitment and training.  Contract penalties could be charged for such closures, though these would have an impact on the Council’s management fee.

Several questions were raised in respect of the funding arrangements; it was known that the Eastwood Centre achieved an annual surplus of £100,000 and Officers were asked whether this could be used to subsidise the costs of the Pool in the Park.  The Committee also enquired whether the temperature of the pool could be lowered to achieve savings in service costs.

The Committee was advised that every effort to reduce the costs of the leisure facilities was being undertaken, including a review of contract requirements for services such as free swims.  The Pool in the Park temperatures had been lowered and a cost saving of some 6% had been achieved.  Reducing the temperature further ran the risk of discouraging users.  In terms of the surplus achieved by the Eastwood Centre, it was explained that the Council operated a wide portfolio of leisure facilities and services, with some achieving a surplus, some not.

The impact of the closure of a centre such as Pool in the Park would be captured by the work plan, including any impact on leisure membership packages.  Changes to the contract with Freedom Leisure could be considered through the Council’s Leisure Partnership Board with a view to identifying opportunities to achieve savings or greater income.

A desk top ‘dilapidation’ review exercise would identify which elements of the Pool in the Park would need to be replaced over the coming five years and the estimated costs.

The Concessions scheme was discussed and it was noted that the Borough’s scheme was generous when compared to neighbouring authorities.  This raised the option of possible increases, though it was emphasised that the concessions were often for the most vulnerable residents.

The Committee thanked Steve May for his presentation.  Noting the ongoing consultation on changes to services, the Members asked for GP surgeries to be directly approached in recognition that changes to the Council’s resources for health and wellbeing could impact on their own services.


That the report be noted.

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