North Yorkshire Council is a new unitary council that commenced on 1 April 2023 following the merger of seven district and borough councils and one county council into a new single organisation. The merger brought opportunities and considerable challenges for sport and leisure so the Council immediately started a strategic review of leisure and brought in SLC as a critical friend.

The seven district and borough councils had previously managed 24 leisure facilities via four different delivery models: in-house provision, a council owned Teckal company, outsourced provision and a leisure trust. There was also a mixed approach to the support for community sport and sports development.

It quickly became clear that leisure, in its traditional form, was unsustainable; instead the service would need to transform into a sport and active wellbeing offer, bringing together the seven former services into one and creating new partnerships with external stakeholders.

SLC developed a new model for sport and active wellbeing by creating a vision for the new service, engaging members and stakeholders, proposing how value for money could be improved, and undertaking an options appraisal for the management of the new service.

A highlight of the project was an interactive ‘visioning’ workshop for officers and members. Senior officers from SLC clients Wigan Council and Northumberland Council joined the workshop via video link and explained their authorities’ journeys towards active wellbeing. This collaborative approach helped bring the process to life and allowed North Yorkshire officers and members to understand how active wellbeing might be delivered in the county.

Through close partnership working with the Council, SLC delivered further workshops, briefing papers and reports which brought members and stakeholders along on the journey to active wellbeing and paved the way for a new and progressive delivery model for the county.

The delivery model was needs-led, strategically focused on local priorities and flexible enough to adapt to North Yorkshire’s unique nature. It comprised three key elements: sport and active wellbeing hubs (based around existing leisure facilities), place-based delivery and a strong sports development offer. It would be delivered not only in the hubs but also in community facilities, public and natural open spaces, towns and villages via outreach services and county-wide via digital offers. Service delivery would be a blend of direct delivery, indirect delivery (commissioning and partnerships) and enabling support. Collaboration and coproduction would be key to ensure that the needs of each locality were reflected in the delivery model.

The outcome was a clear vision for the new service, a new integrated delivery model and a recommendation for a single management model for the whole county.


Overall an excellent experience which delivered a high quality, value for money product. The insight, expertise and wider industry knowledge and good practice was particularly valuable. We enjoyed the collaborative approach and appropriate challenge which really added value to the final outcome. Would not hesitate to recommend.

Jo Ireland, Assistant Director, Culture, Leisure, Archives & Libraries, North Yorkshire Council