Report of the Directors of Commercial and Communities attached.
The Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing (Councillor Mick Titherington), the Director of Commercial and the Assistant Director of Projects and Development presented an update on the recently-established Council-owned South Ribble Leisure Company.
Members were interested to learn how the process of bringing the management of leisure centres in-house had gone and what the benefits of this had been. In response, it was advised that the process had been successful and allowed the council to be ‘hands-on’ in the development of leisure centres in the borough.
It was acknowledged, however, that the company had only been established 6 weeks prior and that a more detailed account of progress would be available for future meetings of the Scrutiny Committee.
Members also noted the impact of the changes on leisure centre staff and queried what support was in place for them.
It was explained that staff were consulted through engagement sessions, on-site meetings and union representatives.
Disruption to customers, for example cancellation of children’s swimming lessons, during the transfer of management was also acknowledged as regrettable but due to unforeseen circumstances.
A query regarding the difference in service seen by customers was raised and members were advised that, although the new leisure company was still new, a marketing plan had been devised with a new app and website established and marketing campaigns due to commence at optimum times, such as the New Year.
Clarification was sought as to where responsibility for the leisure centres lay, as the report was listed under both Directors of Commercial and Communities.
In response, it was explained that responsibility for leisure provisions lay within the Communities directorate and the responsibility for the leisure company and day-to-day organisation fell within the Commercial directorate.
Members welcomed an offer to recirculate the decision-making matrix and governance structure of the Leisure Strategic Partnership Board and Company to members.
Further explanation as to the role of the management accountant was also sought, with members advised that this position was specially dedicated to the leisure centres and was a new post within the council’s shared services with Chorley Council. An external auditor would also be commissioned to review the leisure centres’ finances.
The committee also requested that the report be made more user-friendly and welcomed the offer to inform future reports with the information desired.
Members discussed the possibility of updates on the management of leisure centres being a standing item on the Scrutiny Committee agenda but it was agreed that this would be provided on a quarterly basis.
The committee thanked the Cabinet Member and Directors for their attendance and report.
That the Scrutiny Committee
1. welcomes the Cabinet Member and Director’s update on the Council’s future strategy for the leisure centres and tackling health inequalities in the Borough;
2. will consider the information needed to scrutinise the leisure company performance in the future, including the development of a financial and performance dashboard;
3. is grateful for the reassurance that an engagement and marketing plan is being developed for the leisure centres and that users are to be consulted on the facilities and service received; and
4. looks forward to receiving the governance structure of the leisure company outside of the meeting.