Leisure PFI Update (Agenda item 7)
Report of the PFI Monitoring and Sports Development Officer – Riana Rudland.
The PFI Monitoring and Sports Development Officer presented the report which provided Members with an update and overview of the PFI Leisure contract and the performance of Dereham Leisure and Breckland Leisure Centres.
The first 12 months of operation of the centres had proved an exciting and challenging time for the operator Parkwood Leisure, who had worked hard to drive up participation and memberships while coping with some ongoing defects resulting from the building phase. The key challenges during this period had related to the tiles in the learner pool at Dereham and the MUGA fencing at Thetford, both of which had now been rectified with pleasing outcomes.
The overall usage of the Leisure Centres had increased dramatically, particularly for Dereham. Dereham Leisure Centre had achieved Quest accreditation, the leisure industry quality award scheme for leisure management, with an excellent first time score of 72%. This score had put Dereham in the “commended” category. Breckland Leisure Centre was currently undergoing Quest.
The PFI Monitoring and Sports Development Officer explained the rigorous assessment process. Quest Approval status lasted for two years, and was supplemented by an additional maintenance visit, and mystery visit. This mandatory stage ensured that quality of service delivery was maintained and/or continuously improved in line with the Quest standards. In response to a question about who carried out these inspections, it was confirmed that QLM, an independent organisation, was responsible for this work and Parkwood paid for the privilege of being inspected. The Chairman asked for the results of Breckland Leisure Centre to be emailed to Panel Members.
Both facilities had also gained the environmental management standard ISO14001 in recognition of the environmental systems in place.
An additional investment of £35k by Parkwood Leisure had been made to improve the MUGA netting and the café are in Thetford. A high level catch net had been installed on the MUGA to limit the number of balls deflecting into the adjoining properties. This had greatly improved the relationship with these residents. Investment into the catering facilities had resulted in a brand new front counter and serving area, a new store room, kitchen and state of the art catering equipment. A number of user satisfaction surveys had also been undertaken during the first year of operation covering a range of service areas that had resulted in the menu being changed at Thetford. Another area of improvement that had been identified was signposting. Parkwood had been in discussions with Norfolk County Council about better signage being installed for the Thetford Leisure Centre. As for Dereham, Parkwood was looking at installing a large sign outside which for the moment it lacked.
There had been a dramatic increase in swimming lessons both in Dereham and in Thetford. A table showing comparative figures for both centres had been included in the report. The PFI Monitoring and Sports Development Officer said that it was evident that the level of increase was due to Parkwood branding.
The PFI Monitoring and Sports Development Officer highlighted on-going issues for both Centres that had or would be rectified.
Appendix 1 and 2 attached to the report showed membership maps for each of the centres identifying where the users lived. The data had been collected through direct debit payments and the Leisure Card. The maps highlighted the fact that people were travelling from all over the District which was a great achievement for Parkwood.
A Member asked about the free swimming lessons that had been suggested by the Government. The Government’s intention was to fund councils to provide free swimming for some groups, as a first step towards an aspiration to provide free swimming for everyone by 2012. Firm conclusions should have been reached by the end of July so that councils were able to take account of the money in their budgets for next year. Members were informed that no conclusions had been reached as yet; however, as Breckland Leisure Centres were operated via a management agreement, the monies would have to be passed to Parkwood making it very difficult to monitor and therefore be unsustainable. There would be a draft report on this matter in due course. The PFI Monitoring and Sports Development Officer said that it was unfortunate that the Government had gone public on this without consultation with authorities. Other questions related to membership discounts and whether a sauna was being installed at the Dereham Centre. Members were informed that special circumstances were taken into account in giving discounts. As far as a sauna being installed was concerned, that element had been taken out of the PFI contract as the sauna and steam bath at Thetford had caused so many maintenance problems in the past, one of which, as mentioned earlier, would not be rectified until September.
The Panel felt that it was very important to ensure that the press was kept informed of the dramatic increase in swimming activities for both Centres, which was contrary to the current national trend.
It was noted that the next monitoring report would be made to the Panel at its January meeting and thereafter every six months.
Members thanked the PFI Monitoring and Sports Development Officer for an excellent report.
RESOLVED that the Panel notes the report and the successful results in usage, which were against the national trend and the results of Thetford Leisure Centre for Quest be emailed to Panel Members in due course.