Portfolio: Culture Tourism & Sport
Building on Success - A Leisure Service for the future
Leisure Services Options Appraisal
Report by: Director of Strategic Change
Ward Implications: All
1. Summary and Community Implications
1.1 Early in 2002 it became clear that despite the successes of the previous 5
years within Leisure Services, particularly in respect of accessing external
investment funds, there was a need to consider the future sustainability of the
service. This exercise was required to ensure the service continued to be fit for
purpose and capable of contributing to the increasingly important health, social
and regeneration agendas that would impact on the quality of life for the City's
residents over the next 10 years and beyond.
To this end the council commenced a Leisure Services option appraisal in July
2002. A report to cabinet at that time referred to the resource constraints which
limited the maintenance, refurbishment and development of facilities that were
preventing the council from delivering leisure services to a standard desired by
both service deliverers and users.
A project team was established to undertake the appraisal. Their remit was to
identify whether a case for change existed and to identify the model best able
to meet the council's responsibilities and objectives.
A subsequent report to cabinet in December 2002 concluded that 'continuation
of the present financial strategy will result in further deterioration and decline in
the quality and scale of service provision.' It concluded that there was a case
for change and recommended that two options be subjected to further
evaluation, which should include non-financial consequences, such as
accountability and employment issues. The options selected for further
(i) In-house/hybrid (a mixed delivery service involving public, private and
voluntary sector partners)
(ii) Leisure trust
Selecting the most effective model for delivery is an important decision for the
1.2 Council given that it’s Leisure Services have a substantial impact on the well
being and quality of life within the City’s communities, contributing as they do in
so many ways on issues of health, liveability, and social cohesion,e.g.
through the stewardship of Parks and green spaces
through the creation of opportunities to socialise
by providing opportunities to lead a healthy lifestyle
by providing opportunities for individual development
by encouraging excellence in sport through nationally recognised schemes
Public Leisure Services are being increasingly recognised for their role and
contribution in this respect by the Government and other National agencies.
For example, in April of this year Richard Caborn, Minister for sport, highlighted
the role of local authorities in delivering Governments' sport and physical
activity objectives. He acknowledges Local Government as the key partner to
lead in maximising the contribution that strategically planned, high quality,
publicly accessible sports services can make to health, education, community
safety, community cohesion and the environment.
Similarly the audit commission in its recent interim report of sport and
recreation reviews recognised that this type of service:
was a vital part of many peoples lives, enabling them to have fun, meet new
people, develop their skills and abilities, keep them fit and achieve personal
contributes to quality of life, and social policy priorities such as health,
neighbourhood renewal and crime reduction.
is one of the fastest growing sectors in the UK economy.
The City Council recognises the strategic role and contribution of its Leisure
Services (together with its Public, Private and Voluntary partners) in fulfilling
these objectives which are duly reflected within the Newcastle Plan, and are
seen as an important component of the City Council’s approach to
Neighbourhood Services and Regeneration agendas.
By investigating and evaluating the two agreed models the Option Appraisal’s
1.3 aim was to determine which was best placed to deliver these objectives.
(Details of the Options Appraisal team's work in this respect are set out in
Having gone through a process of weighing the advantages and disadvantages
of each model the key conclusions of the Appraisal have determined that the In
House / Mixed delivery option is the preferred delivery model because, on
The financial benefits of a Trust have been marginalised by the result of a
recent Lands Tribunal decision.
The continued integration of services to meet City Council aspirations and
objectives in respect of its Neighbourhood and Regeneration agendas is
best served by this option.
The perception that a Trust would be better placed to attract external
funding is not proven and,
In adopting this model the modernisation of the service and employment
practices within it have been agreed with the staff side (the detail of which is
included in an outline Service Improvement Plan at Appendix 3), but which
will include, amongst other things:
- Priorities for investment.
- Plans for integration for other providers within and out with the council.
- Planned improvement to customer focus and involvement.
- Planned improvements for service delivery and quality.
1.4 One part of the appraisal process involved an assessment of investment
The advantages of a trust were largely centred around a perceived ability to
raise revenue for investment funding that was not available to the in-house
service. However, recent regulatory changes about how business rates are
applied to leisure facilities have significantly reduced these advantages, with
the result that a continuation of the in-house service supported by external
partners is considered to provide the best and most flexible model for future
investment in the service. This conclusion will be reviewed at regular intervals
to ensure that the service is still procured from the most advantageous source
for residents of the City.
In reaching this conclusion the Appraisal team have constructed an internal
investment plan (detailed at Appendix 2), that considered the collective
resources available to Leisure Services within this delivery model as opposed
to the Trust model. The proposed approach is one where revenue
contributions, prudential borrowing financed through income generation and
focused allocation of R&M resources combine to create the prospect of a base
internal investment programme of £5M from 2004 - 2008 which, given Leisure
Services' record of attracting external funding, could easily realise £10M over
This bold investment plan will signal the beginning of a new era for the City's
Leisure Service provision, where the contribution to National, Regional and
particularly local agendas will be enhanced and sustained by an improved
offer, in an expanded service provision, that will provide more opportunities for
residents to socialise, keep fit and healthy, pursue personal development goals
and thereby improve their quality of life.
This will be achieved by developments within the environment and
infrastructure of the service which together with modernised working practices
will create an ability to generate internal revenue headroom capable of
providing an ongoing investment stream and, consequently, improved
prospects of external matched funding.
The proposals recommended by this report will help ensure that the
contribution made to communities by Leisure Services is maintained, sustained
and developed by bringing in external partnerships where appropriate to
support the proven track record and experience of the Council’s service, and by
ensuring that investments in the service and its facilities are targeted at areas
of greatest need and impact.
Cabinet is recommended to
Agree the In-house / Partnership model of service delivery as the best able
to meet the council's responsibilities and objectives and deliver the
anticipated benefits to the community.
Agree the implementation of the proposed investment plan at Appendix 2.
3. Key Issues
Financial implications and the proposed investment plan are covered in
Risk Management issues will arise and be addressed as the procurement
processes that identify external partners are instigated, and will vary from
project to project.
Strengthening of leisure provision in its widest sense to all of the
neighbourhoods of the City will assist in developing and maintaining community
cohesion, vitality and viability under the umbrella of neighbourhood and
The report has no direct Legal & Human Rights or E-Government implications
4. What Happens Next
If Cabinet approves this report, the Director of Strategic Change will implement
the service improvement plan for leisure and related services, and will proceed
with the proposed investment plan outlined at Appendix 2.
5. Further Information
Report to Cabinet on July 2002 - Leisure Services Options Appraisal
Report to Cabinet on December 2002 - Leisure Services Options Appraisal
6. Further Information
Background papers held by Leisure Services
Ed Williams, General Manger, Leisure Division, Neighbourhood Services