Going...going...on track to be gone by next year- Fenland Council set to pull in partner to run its four leisure centres

Hudson Leisure Centre, Wisbech, one of four owned and run by Fenland District Council. An external c

Hudson Leisure Centre, Wisbech, one of four owned and run by Fenland District Council. An external company will take over the running of them next year. PHOTO: Steve Williams - Credit: Archant

Within the next 15 months Fenland District Council expects to hand over the running of its four leisure centres to an outside body.

The timetable will be discussed later this month when the council’s overview and scrutiny committee will cast its eye over the latest proposals.

“Work is underway, with support from an industry expert, to build a comprehensive business case to identify the potential benefits of this outsourcing approach,” says Phil Hughes, head of leisure.

His report to councillors says the decision to find a third party partner was made by Cabinet late last year following a comprehensive review of council spending.

He said council finances had changed considerably since Fenland adopted its long term strategy in 2012 hence the need now to make changes.

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Mr Hughes says that the sports development aspect of its leisure service will remain directly managed by the council. This will allow officers to continue to support sports clubs with advice, training and future funding bids.

Potential suitors are now being wooed by the council and Mr Hughes revealed that the portfolio for leisure Councillor Michelle Tanfield had spoken to a number of companies at “an early market engagement event”.

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The final decision to select a management partner will be made in March after which the council will work with lawyers and leisure management specialists to find the right partner.

The procurement process is intended to be completed in the spring of 2018 with implementation by the middle of next year.

The newly revised strategy says: “Leisure centres in Fenland must focus on being sustainable in the future and broadening their impact on improving community health.”

In her most recent report Cllr Tanfield noted that the four centres were on target achieve 837,000 visits during the current financial year.

“Membership numbers continue to track expectations,” she told colleagues in December. “The George Campbell continues to exceed targets, with Chatteris on track.

“To address income shortfalls at the Manor maintenance has taken place in the changing rooms to improve the customer experience.”

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