Agenda item

Swimming Pool and Leisure Facilities Contract Task Group

Update to be received on progress of recommendations.

 

The Communities Manager will be in attendance to provide a verbal update.

Minutes:

The Panel received a verbal update regarding the Swimming Pool and Leisure Facilities Contract Task Group from the Communities Manager.

 

The officer introduced the verbal update with an overview which included:

·         that recommendations from the final report of the Swimming Pool and Leisure Facilities Contract Task Group had been in place since approval by Cabinet in November 2016;

·         that six-monthly updates had been brought to the Performance Monitoring Panel, which reported on:

o   monitoring of the Leisure Contract which had ensured improved cleanliness and maintenance;

o   regular site inspections and monthly contract monitoring meetings that had taken place; and

·         that a competitive tender process took place in 2018 and a new leisure provider (Parkwood Leisure) and leisure contract had been in place since March 2019. The contract included clear specifications on cleanliness, maintenance and staffing levels and had robust sanctions and penalties in place.

 

The officer outlined the journey the industry had taken as a result of the pandemic. This had included:

  • that all facilities had closed from 20 March 2020;
  • gym and fitness facilities had reopened on 25 July 2020;
  • lane swimming had commenced on 1 September 2020;
  • further restrictions had been imposed in November 2020;
  • the national Covid tiered system had been in place from 2 December 2020;
  • a third national lockdown had been in place from 30 December 2020;
  • leisure facilities had reopened on 12 April 2021, some restrictions had still been in place;
  • full reopening followed on 19 July 2021; and
  • the Council had been supported to sum of £203,045 through the National Leisure Recovery Fund (NLRF).

 

The officer updated the Panel on Q1 and Q2 performance:

  • Q1 participation figures commenced from reopening on 12 April 2021 and had shown an increase by 152% to September 2021;
  • memberships had increased by 43% from May to September 2021. Targets had been met/exceeded but had not yet reached pre-pandemic levels;
  • gym classes and sports activities had returned; participation in gym activities had reduced but this had previously shown an increase whilst other activities had not been available, and had since rebalanced;
  • pool usage had increased and school swimming sessions had returned;
  • increased activity had occurred at the Peele Leisure Centre since schools had returned in September;
  • monitoring of health and safety compliance had taken place;
  • inspections had taken place and observations had included:
    • that staff had been welcoming, friendly and knowledgeable;
    • high standards of cleanliness had been evident;
    • a tidy and acceptable appearance had been noted; and
  • Customer feedback had been reviewed and comments had been shared.

 

The next steps included:

  • that the contract be monitored and standards maintained;
  • continued financial assistance to the provision of leisure services. The NLRF funding had continued to support recovery but pre-pandemic attendance levels had not yet been achieved; and
  • through the partnership and funding, opportunities be sought to improve physical and mental health which had been given greater prominence since the pandemic.

 

Members thanked the officer for the update and made the following comments:

  • How often and by whom had customer feedback been monitored and reviewed?
    • Officers replied that weekly reviews had taken place during a challenging contractual period; this had moved to monthly reviews when significant improvements had been achieved. All comments had been tracked and action monitored. Negative reviews had been referred to the contractor and spot-check inspections by the council could be triggered. Feedback had been encouraged at site: verbally; through feedback forms; email; and social media channels. Inspections had been completed by a senior officer who had been accompanied by relevant in-house experts as necessary.

 

  • Members stated that a lot had changed since the contract had commenced. The council had needed to support the company financially. What was the future of leisure provision in South Holland and what could be learned from the new strategic partnership?
    • Officers replied that evidence gathering and positive conversations had taken place before the pandemic regarding future options. The recovery period had concentrated on increasing attendance and confidence. The priority for future leisure and culture projects had been to work with the new strategic partnership team so that learning could be shared.

 

  • The Chairman stated that the authority had a responsibility to make a provision to improve the health and wellbeing of residents and it had been essential that the future of the provision be known. The Assistant Director – Leisure and Culture was requested to attend the next meeting to update the Panel on progress made.
    • The Assistant Director – Leisure and Culture replied that leisure and culture had been one of the ten top priorities across the partnership.

 

  • Members stated that the café bar at the Castle Complex had remained closed and had been missed by the community. Would this be reopened?
    • Officers replied that the previous catering offer had not been viable due to low usage. Officers were working with key users to establish alternatives such as hot and cold vending machines. Alternative arrangements had been discussed with the Bowls Club for pre-match meals. A contract variation would be needed if the service was to be permanently withdrawn.

 

  • Members asked whether the percentage capacity for the two Spalding sites had been known.
    • Officers confirmed that the information would be shared.

 

  • Members stated that there had been a lack of promotion and this had become a common theme. A particular concern had been expressed for the Long Sutton Peele site where promotion had not been evident despite usage not being at capacity. Who had the responsibility for promotion, and could the Long Sutton usage figures be shared?
    • The responsibility for promotion had been with the contractor and this had been included in the contract. Partnership working with the council and sharing of intelligence had taken place. The Peele usage figures would be shared.

 

  • Members stated that the contractor needed to adhere to the contract regarding catering and marketing.

 

  • The Chairman stated that the marketing element of the contract needed to be reviewed. The company needed to use their best endeavours to maximise the use of the premises, which included promotion.

 

  • Members asked for the length of contract and whether a break or renewal clause had existed.
    • Officers confirmed the contract had been for five years, and there was a two-year extension option. Break clauses had also existed.

 

  • Members stated that the contract needed to be reviewed urgently and sought clarification of the enforcement officer.
    • The Assistant Director – Leisure and Culture confirmed that the responsibility had been within his team and the Communities Manager would have dealt with enforcement issues. Meetings had been arranged with the contractor and were to take place in due course. Offers and promotions had taken place and wider promotion for the New Year and Spring had been planned which encouraged new memberships.

 

  • The Chairman requested written reports for future updates.

 

AGREED:

 

·         That the comments from the Panel be noted and referred to relevant officers; and

 

·         That a further update be provided in 6 months’ time, and that all future updates be provided as written reports.