Marriage of Convenience

Specialist leisure operators offer a win-win situation reports Ashleigh Mackenzie…

Hurtling towards the 30th anniversary of the introduction of Compulsive Competitive Tendering, the tightening of financial purse strings has made the outsourcing of leisure operations an irresistible temptation for the majority of local authorities in the UK.

In the past ten years, 70% of council-owned pools have transferred their leisure pool stock management to a growing breed of specialist management companies. But far from the negative publicity associated with so many out-of-house contracts, for swimming, this marriage of convenience is winning widespread support.

“With councils facing greater financial pressures, outsourcing of leisure services has increased in more recent years and we expect that trend to continue,” says David Bibby, managing director at Everyone Active,

“As a result of leisure contracting, the benefits that come to local authorities are huge,” he adds.

As larger companies with multiple sites and larger infrastructures, leisure management providers such as Everyone Active have greater economies of scale and are able to offer competitive pricing for customers whilst providing high quality services, equipment and facilities.

“Outsourcing drives levels of savings that ‘in house’ operations simply have not been able to produce.”

Perhaps the biggest factor in the success of leisure outsourcing can be attributed to the cost savings that are derived from it. This is achieved through the reduction in expenditure for councils for significant costs such as transfer of workforce and associated service charges, utilities and buildings and asset costs, as well as a reduction in overhead costs such as national non-domestic rates – achieved through contractors with a charitable model.

Councils are also under pressure to invest more in facilities with the increase in competition from private clubs and multiple budget chains.

Many facilities were built back in the 70’s meaning that many councils have ageing stock that is currently in need of refurbishment. Contractors are able to provide funding for these projects, leading to rejuvenated, modern facilities.