Taking a Strategic Approach
Mid Suffolk and Babergh District Councils operate their core leisure facilities through a large multi site operator (Mid Suffolk) and local leisure trust (Babergh). Both Councils also support their rural communities through an established grants process. With the current leisure contract at Mid Suffolk coming to an end in 2020 and a number of investment opportunities in both Districts that could reduce the costs of the service, the joint Councils sought to establish a very clear strategy for the future role of leisure, sport and physical activity for 2017 onwards.
The joint Councils appointed SLC in October 2016 to develop a Leisure, Sport and Physical Activity Strategy for 2017-2030 to set out its policy position and high-level aspirations for the future service. This was the first stage of support which then introduced the development of a Leisure Facilities Strategy.
A strategy fit for the future
SLC developed the Strategy working closely with Officers, elected members and key stakeholders. It is a high level public facing document aimed at key stakeholders including its leisure management partners, Suffolk County Council, Suffolk Sport, the voluntary sector, schools, local businesses, sport and recreation clubs and societies.
The strategy set out clearly what the joint Councils will continue to do, building on the success of the past, what they will no longer support or deliver and what they will support and enable others to do.
A strong link was made with health and wellbeing throughout the strategy which can be seen here.
The strategy also provided a clear framework for future decisions required by the Council in relation to ownership and management of its four main leisure facilities (linked to the Leisure Facilities Strategy), grant aid support for voluntary groups and organisations and its role in enabling and supporting increased levels of participation in sport and physical activity.
A Leisure Facility Strategy that delivered
In late 2016, SLC commenced the development of the Leisure Facilities Strategy. The project involved a supply and demand assessment, a current state review, consultation with key stakeholders and an options analysis.
The Strategy detailed the current state of core public leisure facility provision highlighting key issues, risks and opportunities and identified which facilities will continue to play a key role in community provision. It explained what future facilities are needed and how this need could be met in the future. It was used to inform future decisions required by the Council in relation to the future of its leisure facilities and procurement of operating partners in the future, including a costed implementation plan with timeframes.
Investing in the Future
The Leisure, Sport and Physical Activity Strategy was formally adopted by the joint Councils in December 2017. In February 2018 following SLC’s report and further consideration, Babergh District Council agreed to invest £3.8 million to developing a replacement swimming pool for Hadleigh. This strategically important pool which was coming to the end of its operational life will be replaced with a new facility adjacent to Hadleigh Pool and Leisure to ensure service continuity.
This is the second time that our joint Councils have engaged SLC to undertake a major piece of work for us which is testament in itself. SLC bring such a personal and bespoke approach to their work and you genuinely feel they are working with you rather than for you. Many consultants just produce a piece of work for you whereas Duncan and his team ensure they really get to understand your requirements and work with you to achieve your objective. In times when we do not have the internal resources and expertise their approach feels like a temporary extension of your own resources which results in a more personal outcome.
Chris Fry, Assistant Director – Environment and Projects
Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Council (November 2017)
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