Securing the Future of Leisure Services Through the COVID-19 Crisis

In April 2020, SLC was appointed to undertake a leisure management options appraisal for South Kesteven District Council’s four leisure centres located in Grantham, Stamford, Bourne and Market Deepings.

South Kesteven is looking to invest in its leisure facilities, including building a new centre in Market Deepings to replace the current ageing dual use facility. The centres had been run through a leisure contract by the same operator for over 20 years and the contract was due to end in January 2021. The Council had intended to extend the contract for 18 months and then carry out a procurement process.

However, the COVID-19 crisis had a major impact on the sustainability of the current operating model with the Council having to deficit fund the service and it was recognised that it would take time for services to recover.

SLC was appointed to undertake an independent review of management options in the context of the COVID crisis and the Council’s aspirations to invest in leisure. The review concluded that the most advantageous approach was for the Council to set up a Local Authority Trading Company. The core driver for this was the need for the Council to have more direct control of the service through the COVID-19 crisis and the flexibility to make investments without having to make reference to a leisure contract, including any potential loss of income claims when sites might be closed for redevelopment.

Following a decision in August 2021 to set up a new company, SLC provided additional support through a detailed mobilisation plan and 5-year business plan with a view to the new organisation, Leisure SK, taking over the operation of the centres in January 2021.

The Council’s project team did an excellent job to ensure that Leisure SK was fully mobilised for this date although the Government decided to re-introduce a national lockdown keeping all leisure facilities closed. Leisure SK opened its doors in April 2021 and the service now has a secure future for the next 5-years and beyond.


SLC’s independent advice and insight were vital building blocks in helping us secure the post-COVID future for leisure in the district through Leisure SK at an extremely difficult time for public leisure services.

Karen Whitfield, Head of Leisure

South Kesteven District Council (April 2021)