Agenda item

Agenda item

Leisure Centre Management Contract (LCMC) 2019-2020

Report of the Head of Leisure and Environmental Services


Overview and Scrutiny Committee received the report of the Head of Leisure and Environmental Services providing an overview of the council’s Leisure Centre Management Contract between 1 April 2019 and 31 March 2020.  The Head of Leisure and Environmental Services was joined by the relevant Contracts and Partnerships Manager and Sports and Physical Activity Manager.  Also in attendance were representatives from SLM/Everyone Active.


Following a brief overview by the Contracts and Partnerships Manager, SLM’s Contract Manager for Watford Central and Woodside outlined the constructive working relationship which existed between the leisure centre operator and the council.  Between 1 April 2019 and 31 March 2020, the leisure centres had enjoyed increasing attendance rates and continued success encouraging people from Watford’s different communities to move from being inactive to active.  SLM retained a strong focus on employing local people in its centres and engaging with West Herts College on its teaching programmes.  On-going work was also being undertaken to reduce the centres’ carbon footprints.


There followed a discussion about the impacts of Covid 19 on SLM’s operations.  SLM’s contract manager described the steps taken to ensure that the centres could continue to operate safely following lockdown.  These included, coronavirus risk assessments, enhanced cleaning rotas, increased signage and one-way systems, social distancing requirements, and lower occupancy ratios for activities.  There had been an inevitable detrimental impact on attendance and membership levels at both centres.  To offset this, considerable work had been undertaken to market the leisure centres and review programmes and improve outreach e.g., using online platforms for those who felt unable to return to the centres.  Public feedback on SLM’s initiatives to respond to the pandemic had been positive.


Both leisure centres had recently achieved “outstanding” Quest accreditation, the leisure industry benchmarking scheme, ranking them amongst the top 10 leisure facilities in the country.


During discussions following the presentation, the following issues were raised:


           Attendance figures in October 2020 compared to October 2019 were 40% lower at Woodside and 17% lower at Watford Central.  This reflected the significant reduction in large scale events at Woodside and the different demographics between the centres, with larger numbers of older users at Woodside who had been more reluctant to return.

           Around £30,000 had been spent per leisure centre site to make them Covid secure.  Cleaning costs had also increased by around 60%.  It was noted that customers had also been proactive in cleaning down equipment and surfaces after use.

           Between 33-36% of members had failed to renew their membership following the first lockdown.

           There had been excellent partnership working between SLM and council to ensure that Covid measures were appropriate and effective, including invaluable feedback from environmental health officers, contract officers and the relevant Portfolio Holder who had all inspected facilities and arrangements prior to reopening.

           In order to encourage people to return, SLM had increased its use of social media highlighting areas of potential concern to customers such as cleaning regimes to encourage people to feel more comfortable using facilities.

           All SLM staff had completed Covid induction training, working bubbles had been created and social distancing was strongly enforced.  Wellbeing was a key part of the company’s business plan and SLM had drawn on the good practices, particularly around mental health, promoted by the council, chamber of commerce and BID.

           Exercise from home could become a long term phenomenon, building on the online platforms developed during the pandemic.  These platforms would become part of the offering to new members.  Booking arrangements were also expected to continue since these had provided valuable information around usage which would help optimise management of the facilities and the services offered to customers. 

           99% of the leisure centre staff had been furloughed during lockdown with a core management and maintenance team retained to oversee the facilities.

           Membership direct debits had been suspended during the lockdowns to compensate for facilities being unavailable.  Those paying annually would have additional time added to the end of their membership periods.


Commenting on the financial support provided to SLM by the council during the current pandemic, the Portfolio Holder for Client Services confirmed that there had been a loss of income of £721k.  Additional support of £350k had been agreed for SLM.  These figures had been included in recent Finance Scrutiny Committee papers for members to scrutinise.  The Portfolio Holder further advised that the health and wellbeing of Watford’s residents was of paramount importance and the council was committed to providing excellent leisure centre facilities in the town.  It was anticipated that the council’s costs would be recovered over the term of the current contract with SLM through an enhanced profit share arrangement.




that Overview and Scrutiny Committee reviews the report and supporting information and makes any recommendations to Cabinet.

Supporting documents:


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