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D-day for contract to manage our leisure centres

A meeting to decide who wins the contract to manage our four leisure centres will be broadcast live on our YouTube channel from 6pm on Thursday 3 May.

A not-for-profit leisure trust which manages leisure and cultural facilities on behalf of partners across the UK is in line to win the contract.

Councillors will be asked at a special meeting to award the contract to Freedom Leisure to manage the centres in Ashbourne, Bakewell, Matlock and Wirksworth for 10 years, with a five year extension option.

Subject to council approval, a three-month “mobilisation period” will start on 16 May, enabling Freedom Leisure to take over operational control on 1 August. Although all current staff will then be employed by Freedom Leisure, the District Council will continue to retain ownership of the leisure centre buildings.

Councillors will hear that in addition to taking over ongoing operation and maintenance costs, Freedom Leisure would invest around £1m to enhance the District Council’s facilities, ensuring that the leisure centres meet changing industry trends and reflect local demographics and customer expectations.

Freedom Leisure want to implement a number of innovative and capital investment opportunities at all four sites that will add value, increase participation, reduce inactivity and improve the financial position for the Council. Capital investments would include:

  • Improvements to Health and Fitness equipment across all sites
  • Improvements to the Indoor Cycling Studio at Ashbourne Leisure Centre
  • Installation of clip and climb type ‘auto belay’ system at Wirksworth Leisure Centre’s climbing wall
  • Refurbishment of changing facilities at Bakewell Swimming Pool
  • Introduction of new technology to improve the customer experience
  • Creation of ‘grab and go’ café at Ashbourne Leisure Centre

To achieve annual revenue savings of more than £5m over the life of the contract - £1.1m more than the target set when the process started - the District Council would be asked to invest an initial capital sum of around £1.2m to facilitate new developments at Arc Leisure Matlock.

It is planned to create at Arc a high quality ground floor group exercise studio, together with a new soft play area and children’s party room on the first floor, while the current reception and café facilities would also be reconfigured.

The report states that the development of staff and improved customer experience feature strongly throughout the bid, as does the introduction of customer interactive technology that is not currently in place.

The report [PDF 390KB] to the 3 May meeting adds:

“After a well-structured and robust procurement and due diligence process, it is recommended that Freedom Leisure Limited are awarded the contract for a period of 10 years, with the option to discuss a further 5 years extension.

“Their approach to working with communities and partners, as well as their commitment to improving the health and wellbeing of residents and visitors is well aligned to the Council’s philosophy and meets requirements highlighted during the consultation process.

“Freedom Leisure’s submission offers substantial investment in the development of the Council’s Leisure Centres both in the short term and over the life of the contract. They will also take on the full liability for the maintenance and repair of each of the facilities.”

In June last year Derbyshire Dales councillors unanimously approved the specification for an external provider to manage as a package the district’s four leisure centres, protecting areas such as current concessionary discount schemes, opening hours, school swimming lessons, pitch bookings at Wirksworth and the use of the leisure centres for elections, Ashbourne Shrovetide and civil emergencies.

The specification document – drawn up following several months of consultation with leisure centre users and staff also set out recommended pricing policies and the position of existing club and user group bookings.

Four bidders, including Freedom Leisure, originally took part in a thorough procurement process.

While Ashbourne Leisure Centre, Bakewell Swimming Pool, Arc Leisure Matlock and Wirksworth Leisure Centre currently are subsidised by local Council Tax payers to the tune of around £1.3-million a year, outsourcing the management of the four centres is designed not only to reduce financial pressures but to further improve the leisure and wellbeing offering in the Derbyshire Dales.

Our 4 leisure centres

A meeting to decide who wins the contract to manage our four leisure centres will be broadcast live on our YouTube channel from 6pm on Thursday 3 May.

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