To consider the attached report. (Representatives from Everyone Active, the Council’s leisure management contractor, will be attending the meeting to support the presentation of this item and answer questions.)
Contact Officer: Teresa Lane (01296) 585006
The Committee received a report, as well as a short video presentation, on the key outcome and outputs achieved by the Leisure Management Contract in 2018/19 and which also provided key performance information and an overview of the key suggested actions for 2019/20.
Representatives from Everyone Active, who were responsible for the leisure management contract for Aqua Vale Swim and Fitness Centre and at the Swan Pool and Leisure Centre attended the meeting to support the presentation to Members and to answer questions. The current contract had commenced on 1 April 2013 for 10 years with a mutual option to extend for a further 5 years. This report looked at Year 6 of the contract.
Members were informed that the Leisure Management Contract realised betterment to AVDC of circa £620,000 per annum, £120,000 saving was achieved by no management fee being paid to the leisure centre operator as per the previous contract and £500,000 income was generated by EA paying the Council for the opportunity to manage the centres on AVDC’s behalf. The management fee payable to the Council for the period 2017/18 was £547,379 which took into account the CPI annual increase.
AVDC provided a monitoring role as part of the contract arrangements and conducted monthly monitoring by holding Contract performance meetings and inspections. This was stepped up if there were areas of concern or an increase in complaints. The regular performance meetings examined a range of performance indicators which included information similar to that contained within Appendix A to the Committee report. The information provided a baseline for future reports and for measuring contract outcomes and outputs.
The council had undertaken an extensive £2.7m modernisation project of Swan Pool and Leisure Centre between February 2015 and February 2016 which had delivered new and improved facilities and increased levels of customer satisfaction and usage. The last major modernisation project at Aqua Vale Swimming and Fitness Centre had been completed in 2012 at a cost of £6.7m.
Members were informed that £702,700 had been spent on updates and improvements of both leisure centres in the last financial year. Projects had included modernisation of the Aqua Vale pool side toilets, private showers and accessible changing. A state-of-the-art drowning detection system Pool view had also been installed. Investments at Swan Pool had included gym replacement equipment, new boilers, a range of lighting improvements and CCTV installation for the all-weather pitch. A list of all improvements undertaken last year and planned for this financial year was detailed in Appendix A to the Committee report.
Section 9 included a proposal to introduce a new soft play area to the Swan Pool centre in place of the climbing wall. Soft play areas have become increasingly popular whilst unfortunately, despite good marketing, demand for the climbing wall had reduced with users prepared to travel to bigger leisure centres or preferring instead to use dedicated climbing centres such as Big Rock in MK. The proposal was to apply for unallocated Section 106 money to provide the new facility. The climbing wall had been sold with the buyer also paying for the dismantling which would have cost AVDC between £5,000 and £10,000.
The crèche at Swan Pool would close this summer due to low take up. EA’s efforts to promote the crèche have been scrutinised by officers and the Cabinet member for Civic Amenities. The current service did not require the crèche to be registered with Ofsted. This did, however, mean that its use is limited to users of the centre and for up to two hours. These terms had made it difficult to attract the numbers that would make the service sustainable.
The detailed performance information of the Aqua Vale Swimming and Fitness Centre and Swan Pool and Leisure Centre was detailed at Appendix A to the Committee report. This information provided a baseline for future reports and concentrated on the Leisure Management Contract outcomes and outputs for 2018/19.
A new General Manager had started at Aqua Vale in May 2018 and been instrumental in continuing to improve the quality of cleaning and customer service. A General Manager for the Swan Pool had also been appointed in November 2018. The second appointment had been a move to strengthen the management structure at that site and was not a replacement for a previous post holder. The EA Contract Management Team otherwise remains the same.
Cleanliness and cleaning standards remained a focus for the Cabinet Member for Civic Amenities and AVDC. Any complaints were followed up and discussed with the EA Contract Manager and the cleanliness of the site formed part of the monthly monitoring. The cleaning of the leisure centres remained in-house by EA who now had complete control of the staff, processes and performance. There were understandably, some occasions when standards fell short but EA had been quick to resolve these as soon as possible.
Vandalism and wilful damage whilst not excessive, was apparent from time to time. Notably, each year, for the past four years, the front elevation glazing had been deliberately smashed causing approximately £15,000 of damage. This year the same culprit had undertaken to cause more damage and had been caught on CCTV. The culprit had been charged with this and other offences but, unfortunately, no compensation is likely.
Attendance across the contract had risen by 60,808 users on the previous year equating to a 5.7% overall increase. The Committee was informed that EA were placing greater focus on the customer journey at the centres and continued to use technology to gain insight and improve the centre experience. One means of doing this was by introducing a pre-booking system for casual swimming. This had reduced the number of customers queuing, improved the customer experience and was a means to increase footfall.
Members sought additional information and were informed:-
(i) that the footfall at the Swan Pool had been impacted when a budget gym had opened in a warehouse down the road. EA stated that they believed that the Swan Pool had a better and more varied offering than the budget gym. As such, while the Swan Pool was looking at pricing points and other initiatives to regain customers who had left, e.g. gym only memberships for 16-21 year olds, it was not trying to compete solely on price.
(ii) that the reason for the increase in the number of staff accidents at Aqua Vale was due to a more rigorous reporting regime being introduced. Very small issues that had not been reported in the past were now being captured and recorded.
(iii) that the increased in the accident rate at Aqua Vale from 5.03 to 6.20 accidents per 10,000 visits was due to sporting injuries and natural causes. All other types of injury had remained static.
(iv) that the accidents per 10,000 visits and RIDDOR reportable incidents at Swan Pool had reduced significantly over the year. While there were no trends to identify the reason for this, the Swan Pool facilities and café were better laid out than Aqua Vale which could be a factor.
(v) that the Swan Pool General Manager would investigate why the mushroom fountain had not been working on occasions over the previous months. It was possible that some features had been turned off at non-peak times but they should have been operating during family time.
(vi) that EA and AVDC would continue to invest in Aqua Vale and the Swan Pool to ensure the facilities continued to evolve and gave the public what they wanted.
That the representatives from EA be thanked for attending the meeting and for the positive progress that continued to be made in managing and improving the Council’s leisure centres.