Re-procurement of a high performing contract

In March 2016 SLC was appointed to support the procurement of an operator for the two main leisure facilities owned by Watford Borough Council, Watford Central Leisure Centre and Watford Woodside Leisure Centre and Athletics Stadium.

The Council had invested heavily in the facilities over recent years and this had ensured a good quality offer for local residents built on a strong partnership with the existing operator.

The Council had aspirations to develop a new ‘bold and progressive’ service and achieve further value for residents through an enhanced offer and established a highly experienced project team led by Chris Fennell to work alongside SLC.

Pre-procurement exemplar

Watford Borough Council allowed a sufficient lead in period to ensure that the pre-procurement planning was conducted to take full advantage of SLC’s experience and support. This enabled the Council to establish a very clear position on key considerations such as: establishing key strategic procurement priorities, future client function, risk transfer, asset management, contract length, evaluation criteria, the specification and contract.

The Council also undertook detailed condition surveys in advance to ensure that it had a very clear understanding of the current condition of its future assets and forward lifecycle costs.

The Council also built into the governance arrangements for the new contract a Strategic Partnership Board to oversee service delivery at a strategic level to ensure it remained aligned to the Council’s priorities.

Successful procurement outcome

Watford Borough Council agreed a new 15-year partnership with leisure operator Everyone Active to manage and help develop its sport and leisure facilities. The new contract will include investment into the facilities to help meet growing demand for health and fitness activities.

The service has been re-designed to help extend its reach and impact across the borough by specifying a new programme of outreach activities to help tackle inactivity in local communities.

Free swimming will be provided at Watford Central Leisure Centre between 2pm and 5pm on Sundays from June 2018. Free Gym Active sessions will be provided for 11 to 15-year-olds across a series of times and dates to promote an active lifestyle among young people in Watford.

Despite this widening of the service and required outcomes, the Council has managed to secure significant future revenue savings over the 15-year period.

The Council and Everyone Active are committed to proactively addressing health inequalities in the borough with the aim of getting residents more active. The new contract is based upon a shared vision and commitment to increase participation in sport and physical activity, particularly among under-represented groups, and is supported by a partnership philosophy of collaboration between the Council, Everyone Active and a range of key stakeholders.

Deputy Mayor Cllr Peter Taylor, whose portfolio includes the Council’s leisure partnerships, said: “We’re really pleased with this excellent deal for Watford residents.  Everyone Active is a fantastic partner, providing facilities that are as good as the private health clubs, but at an affordable price. We hope that the free swimming will encourage people in Watford to lead a more active lifestyle. This is an excellent deal for everyone who uses our leisure centres and for local council tax payers.


SLC have been our trusted and valued advisor throughout the project, from the very start of the pre-procurement stage right through to the signing of the new leisure management contract. Toby and the team provided expert advice and current market insight at every step of the way, including the development of clear strategic priorities, an innovative service specification and a procurement strategy which secured engagement from bidders despite a highly competitive and busy market. This, coupled with skilful facilitation of workshops with senior officers and Members and expert evaluation and scrutiny of bid submissions gave us full confidence in all elements of the process. Toby and colleagues were prepared to challenge the Council’s approach where they felt it was in our best interests and always told us what we needed to hear even if it wasn’t always what we wanted to hear! Their professional but supportive and friendly approach means that they’re easy to work with, accessible and extremely reliable.

The result was outstanding, exceeding all expectations – revenue savings of over £10M over the term of the contract, reduced risk to the Council and a new robust and innovative specification which extends the reach and impact of the service. We couldn’t have asked for more from SLC and would highly recommend them to anybody looking for procurement support.’

Chris Fennell, Leisure & Community Section Head
Watford Borough Council (August 2018)