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Not-for-profit trust chosen as preferred bidder for contract to run leisure centres in Lichfield and Burntwood

A not-for-profit trust has been chosen as the preferred bidder to run leisure centres in Lichfield and Burntwood.

Lichfield District Council’s Cabinet agreed to begin negotiations with Freedom Leisure for the outsourcing of Burntwood Leisure Centre and Friary Grange Leisure Centre.

The swimming pool at Burntwood Leisure Centre

The swimming pool at Burntwood Leisure Centre

The two parties will now work together to agree terms and conditions of the deal ahead of approval by the council later this year.

Councillor Iain Eadie, Cabinet member for leisure, said: “We’re delighted to be working with Freedom Leisure as our preferred bidder and hope that the contract negotiations go smoothly.

“Freedom Leisure manage a large suite of leisure centres nationwide and are committed to improving leisure facilities locally, boosting usage and offering great staff development schemes.”

Cllr Iain Eadie

Cllr Iain Eadie

Cllr Eadie added that he did not believe the decision would impact on usage of the two sites.

“We’ve decided to outsource the management of two of our leisure centres, as we must use our resources as effectively as possible, while encouraging more people to be active more often,” he said.

“Where outsourcing has happened in other parts of the country, such as Cannock and Rugeley, participation levels have gone up and people have benefited from enhanced leisure services, so we’re confident it will offer our residents the best access to our leisure facilities.”

The sites at Lichfield and Burntwood will join other facilities across the UK that are managed by Freedom Leisure.

Managing director Ivan Horsfall-Turner said: “We are delighted to have been selected as Lichfield District Council’s preferred bidder and very much look forward to working with the existing workforce and supporting them to build upon the current high quality services and facilities.

“We hope that our operational expertise, coupled with this local approach, will mean that the services will go from strength-to-strength in support of the objectives we share with the council.”

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3 Comments

  1. Nellygb

    24th October, 2017 at 12:32 pm

    I do hope the people who paid for these facilities and their constant upkeep are well informed on the progress of talks, although I don’t hold out much hope of this being the case given past experiences. In my mind the first thing they need to do is clarify what exactly constitutes a “not for profit” organisation. The term is too loosely used across all sectors and to a point now just conjurors up images of skulduggery. I watch this space in anticipation of being proven wrong.

  2. Mr Westwood

    24th October, 2017 at 3:00 pm

    To answer Nellygb, there is very little communication between the Gym and its members. I carried out my own research into the Bwood Leisure center and for the last 4 years it has operated at a ~£600,000 lost each year.

    Although I am very wary of price changes (I currently pay ~£35/month just for gym access), I do think the gym could do with an update of new/working machines. It is a great facility to have in Burntwood and offers alot for families to do (Swimming is always busy), as well as supporting local sports teams.

  3. Nellygb

    24th October, 2017 at 5:11 pm

    I agree totally with the point you make about giving families access to a wide range of leisure facilities Mr Westwood. Although of topic somewhat, I remember my parents contributing to the original leisure centre appeal to buy a tile for the swimming pool (at least I think I do), such was their enthusiasm for such a facility that at the time could only be enjoyed by travelling to Walsall or into Lichfield.

    Your own research has turned up a little gem because if indeed this facility is losing 12K a week then there is something wrong with the management of the facility. I can not see the incumbent “not for profit” leisure management company being comfortable with these figures and given the size of the losses a simple tweaking is not going to plug that gapping hole so get ready for a substantial price rise is my suggestion, if the figures you have quoted are indeed true.

    I too have done a little research into the preferred bidder and see their current turnover is in excess of £40m a year but since 2002, the year of their inception as a not for profit company, their investment into their portfolio of 200 plus managed leisure centres has amounted to £12m. I am not in an informed position to make an informed judgement on that but it does seem somewhat on the low side IMO.

    As an aside, I am a user, pay my monthly fees and enjoy the time I spend there, but I will be cancelling from the 1st of next month until I find out more on the proposed takeover.

    Oh and those people I mention who have paid for the two leisure centres to be built and still continued to pay for this “new” facility are (in this order) the Rates, Poll Tax and Council Tax payers since 1972

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