Derbyshire Dales council to vote on outsourced leisure centre operator

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A not-for-profit leisure trust which operates across the UK is in line to win the contract to run Derbyshire Dales District Council’s four leisure centres.

Councillors will meet on Thursday, May 3, to consider awarding the contract to Freedom Leisure for management of centres in Ashbourne, Bakewell, Matlock and Wirksworth.

In June last year, councillors approved terms for an external provider to manage the centres, and four bidders competed for the contract.

A council officers’ report prepared for this week’s meeting notes: “After a robust procurement process, it is recommended that Freedom Leisure are awarded the contract for a period of ten years, with the option to discuss a further five 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 requirements highlighted in our consultations.”

If approved, a three-month ‘mobilisation period’ will start on May 16, enabling Freedom Leisure to take over operational control on August 1.

Although all current staff will then be employed by Freedom Leisure, the council will continue to retain ownership of the leisure centre buildings.

The four centres are currently subsidised through Council Tax to the tune of around £1.3million a year.

The council say outsourcing management of the facilities should help reduce its own financial pressures and improve the service.

Freedom Leisure would take over all operation and maintenance costs, and invest around £1m in the facilities.

To achieve annual savings of more than £5m over the life of the contract, the council would also invest £1.2m for work at Arc Leisure Matlock.

The report notes “Freedom Leisure 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.”

Under the terms of the contract, councillors have sought to protect areas such as discount schemes, opening hours, school swimming lessons, bookings and the use of the leisure centres for special events and civil emergencies.

Freedom has said it wants to invest in all four sites to ensure they meet changing industry trends, local demographics and customer expectations.

Council officers say plans would: “Add value, increase participation, and reduce inactivity.”

Promised developments include: improvements to equipment at all sites and especially the cycling studio at Ashbourne, installation of clip-and-climb for Wirksworth’s climbing wall, and refurbishment of changing facilities at Bakewell Swimming Pool, and the creation of a new café at Ashbourne.

Plans have also been drawn up to create a ground floor group exercise studio at Arc Leisure Matlock, together with a soft play area, children’s party room, and remodelled reception and café facilities.

Thursday’s meeting will be broadcast live on the council’s YouTube channel from 6pm.

The full report can be viewed online at www.derbyshiredales.gov.uk/committee.