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Health & Leisure Review

Update statement from Cllr Mark Steele, Portfolio Holder for Leisure & Wellbeing , 6 September 2019

Cabinet (04/09/19) have supported the considerable work done to date on the review of Health and Leisure and we will now proceed to the first stage of seeking a partner from the market.

Our Expressions of Interest document (pages 181-204) outlines our desired aims for our local leisure facilities - we are looking for new ideas and improvements that enhance our leisure facilities.   We wish to achieve shared outcomes from the partnership, including affordable leisure facilities that continue to support active lifestyles and healthy living. 

In July, we asked for customer representatives to be part of a customer focus group, the first of these will be held in early October. 

The 'Expressions of Interest' is the very first stage of this process of partnering, which will help deliver our Health and Leisure vision. We are seeking a partner to manage the five health and leisure centres to help deliver a sustainable healthy lifestyle legacy for future generations.

Notes: The timetable for the stages of the procurement process is within the report: Expressions of Interest document

Update 27 August 2019

Since our last update in July (see below), Members and officers have been working on the review and we are now in a position to start the process of requesting 'Expressions of Interest' from partners who may want to run the Centres with us. This is the first stage of the procurement process and will be discussed at the Cabinet meeting on 4 September.  A further update will be added here after that meeting. 

Read the report to Cabinet 

Update statement from Cllr Mark Steele, Portfolio Holder for Leisure & Wellbeing , July 2019

We are about to undertake a full health and leisure procurement process, to see if there is a suitable partner to manage the five centres.  This follows a number of months of working on a detailed specification which includes service standards, monitoring process and community outcomes required for the Health and Leisure service.  At the same time, we are continuing to review our in-house service to see what changes we can make. 

We will ask providers in the market for 'Expressions of Interest'. It will be at this stage we will gain an understanding of what organisations are willing, and suitable, to partner with us to achieve our aims for the service.  Any bids will be back by the end of the year, and a decision on how to progress will be made around April 2020.

Our intention with this review is to secure a quality leisure provision for the district in the medium term. We regularly review what services and how we provide them at our centres, and listen closely to customer comments and recently we held ten customer forums.  I would like to thank the 150+ customers who came along.  Their questions were useful, constructive, challenging, and positive, and showed me clearly how much this service is valued by our community.   

You can (LINKsee the questions and answers from those forums here.  As a result of a suggestion at the sessions, we will be setting up a customer focus group that we will keep regularly updated and meet with monthly.  If you would like to be a part of that group, please email with the subject line 'customer group'.  Please tell us what centre you are a member of or use regularly, and a line or two on why you would like to get involved in the customer group.   We hope the group to have representatives from all of the five health and leisure centres and the range of services we provide.    

We will hold more customer forums, for anyone to attend, later in the year, and you can email any comments or questions at any time to

Update March / April 2019

Our review of the Leisure service continues and we would like to clarify to our customers what is happening.  Below is an update and we would also like to invite you to come along to one of the customer forums we are holding at the centres in June (see below).

Leisure is a very valued service to the Council and to the residents of the New Forest but it requires regular significant investment which is increasingly difficult with ongoing budget reductions.

In the summer (2019) we will be inviting partners to tell us how they would deliver the service and how they could add value. If we can find the right partner we will enter into a 10 year management agreement protecting many of the current elements of our service, for example, school use.  An external partner can bring economies of scale, investment, and additional expertise.

In summary:

·        The leisure review is being done so that we can continue to provide customers with a quality leisure service.

·        We are not 'selling off' the centres. We are looking for a partner to manage the service on our behalf (NFDC would continue to own the buildings).

·        We are seeking a partner with a community focus who will continue to invest in our leisure services.

·        You are unlikely to see any changes in the centres as a result of a partnering approach until April 2020.

You are invited to come along to hear more and ask questions:

Monday 10 June

New Milton Health and Leisure 1.00pm - 2.15pm Studio 2

Applemore Health and Leisure 6.00pm - 7.15pm Café Area

Totton Health and Leisure 8.15pm - 9.30pm Studio 2

Tuesday 11 June

Ringwood Health and Leisure 1.00pm - 2.15pm Studio

Wednesday 12 June

Totton Health and Leisure 12noon - 1.15pm Studio 2

Ringwood Health and Leisure 6.00pm - 7.15pm PlaySite

Thursday 13 June

Applemore Health and Leisure 1.00pm - 2.15pm Studio 1

Lymington Health and Leisure 6.00pm - 7.15pm Studio 2

New Milton Health and Leisure 8.15pm - 9.30pm Studio 2

Friday 14 June

Lymington Health and Leisure 1.00pm - 2.15pm Studio 2

Statement, 12 December 2018, by Councillor James Binns, portfolio holder for Health and Wellbeing

The aim of the partnering approach agreed at the Cabinet meeting (5 December 2018) is to ensure that we continue to have an excellent leisure service for our community and customers, protected for future generations, as the Council is not in a position financially to continue to provide the services that customers require.

As the paper has now been approved, this is the beginning of the process, not the end.  A formal procurement exercise will now begin and this will give us the opportunity to have detailed conversations with leisure providers so that we can understand how a partnership would achieve our aims; social and community wellbeing, a quality service, affordability, reduced cost to the taxpayer and investment for the future.

If, however, no partner comes forward that satisfies our criteria then we will look at setting up an arms-length NFDC trading company. This will remove some of the financial and bureaucratic burdens that currently constrain the service.   

This Council, its Councillors and the Cabinet, passionately believe in our excellent Health and Leisure Centres, but in order to protect and enhance them we must consider alternative operating models. I am certain that this is a decision that will achieve those two primary objectives.

I also recognise the valuable input that our stakeholders will need to have in the process moving forward and we are committed to ongoing dialogue with the trade unions, staff, and partner schools and colleges to ensure the best outcomes are achieved.  In June/July, once we have our requirements (in a contract specification) we will share this with our customers by setting up customer forums.

Finally I would like to thank the cross-party Task and Finish Group, which was made up of Conservative and Liberal Democrat members, for their extensive work on this matter and for the unanimous decision that they reached after much research and discussion. The Group will continue to support me through the procurement process.

Leisure Review report to Cabinet, 5 December 2018 (agenda item 10, page 145)

Statement, 11 September 2018

We are continuing our review of how we run our health and leisure centres (started in March 2018) in order to provide a high quality, sustainable leisure service, which covers its own costs without needing to be subsidised by the council. 

To date we have considered a range of options - continuing to manage the service in-house, setting up an NFDC trading company, partnering, and an asset transfer. 

The criteria we evaluated these possible options against included impact on directly employed staff; the financial impacts (income generation and subsidy reduction); and the potential to contribute to our vision and outcomes for the service.

This stage of the evaluation is now complete and we believe that, from the possible options we have looked at, finding a partner to deliver our leisure services will be the best way forward; but we need to carry out further research into the market to establish if this option is feasible and beneficial.

The partnering* option would involve the outsourcing of the management of the facilities. 

Our aim is to enhance what we currently offer, and secure the longer-term investment in the leisure service, while managing costs and addressing the need to make savings. 

The Member Task and Finish group will present findings into the potential market interest in November 2018 for consideration by the Community and Leisure review panel of ten councillors from across the district. If partnering appears to fulfil our aims, a full procurement process will commence which typically takes 12 months.  

If, after completing our research, we conclude that partnering is not an appropriate option, or it looks like we may not find a suitable partner, there are a number of other possible options open to us that have been identified in the course of this review and these will continue to be investigated alongside the market testing as part of our comparison work.  

In parallel with looking at how we deliver the service, we have been running a review of the management structure of the service, which will be completed in October 2018.

In summary:

•    We have been working for a number of months on understanding the best way to provide the leisure service.
•    Our work so far suggests that looking at the market for a partner to manage the centres has the most advantages
•    Nothing has been decided yet and we need to now research this option fully for consideration in November 2018. 

Cllr James Binns, NFDC Portfolio Holder for Leisure, said, "Our focus through this project is and shall remain, to secure the future of our excellent leisure services.  Having centres that continue to be fit-for-purpose is what is driving this work, as we know the valuable contribution they make to the wellbeing of our customers.  We are open-minded about what that approach may look like and I am excited about the positive benefits this review will bring.  

"Our centres are what they are in no small part due to the committed staff we have working in them and throughout this review a key piece of work will be a consideration of how any changes to how we operate will affect our people."  

Cllr Steve Clarke, who chairs the Leisure Task and Finish Group, said, "The move to explore the market for what could be possible for the centres signals the next stage in this review project.  We have looked carefully at what is possible with an open mind.  The group are satisfied with the work undertaken and are happy to make a recommendation that the preferred option is partnering.  But we need to do some further work to establish whether there is market interest and I would like to reiterate that at this stage no decisions have been made."

*This could be delivered by the private sector or through an existing Leisure Trust. The key features include:
•    The council becomes the client and determines the service specification
•    The operator undertakes the management of the facilities, collects income and is responsible for most costs
•    Staff are employed by the operator
•    Fixed term contract, typically 10-15 years
•    Management fee payable/receivable


Updated: 6 Sep 2019
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