Going....going....gone. Fenland Council hires Freedom to take on our four leisure centres for 15 year term

PUBLISHED: 23:23 18 August 2018 | UPDATED: 23:32 18 August 2018

Alan Melton, Jody Cundy and Steve Garratt at the Hudson Leisure Centre

Alan Melton, Jody Cundy and Steve Garratt at the Hudson Leisure Centre

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A non-for-profit leisure trust has won a 15 year contract to run Fenland Council leisure centres in March, Wisbech, Whittlesey and Chatteris.

Official opening of the revamped centre by Cllr Michelle Tanfield, FDC’s Portfolio Holder for Leisure. Left: Cllr Mike Cornwell, Jon Couves sport England, Dennis Freeman-Wright ASA, Cllr Michelle Tanfield, Cllr Will Sutton, Andy Cornwell from George Cambell centre and Town Cllr Andrew Donnelly, Picture: Steve Williams.Official opening of the revamped centre by Cllr Michelle Tanfield, FDC’s Portfolio Holder for Leisure. Left: Cllr Mike Cornwell, Jon Couves sport England, Dennis Freeman-Wright ASA, Cllr Michelle Tanfield, Cllr Will Sutton, Andy Cornwell from George Cambell centre and Town Cllr Andrew Donnelly, Picture: Steve Williams.

Freedom Leisure has partnerships across the country including running the Marina Leisure Complex at Great Yarmouth.

The council says Freedom was the highest bidder for the contract and the deal “the most economically advantageous tender” for Fenland council tax payers.

A council spokesman said they would work with Freedom Leisure “to deliver capital investment in the leisure centres to enable facility improvement and building maintenance over the 15 year contract period”.

The council said it compared which contract period offered the most economically advantageous position for the council by considering both the financial positions offered, as well as a wider assessment of the leisure contract market.

Tour de France trophy in Fenland at the Manor Leisure Centre, Whittlesey. Picture: Steve Williams.Tour de France trophy in Fenland at the Manor Leisure Centre, Whittlesey. Picture: Steve Williams.

“The highest ranked bidder, Freedom Leisure, offers best value and the most economically advantageous tender,” said the spokesman.

“Revenue savings generated against the 2018/19 leisure services budget will be in the region of £351,000 per annum.”

The privatising of the leisure centres following a confidential report to councillors in March last year.

It was decided to put the centres out to tender and Freedom were one of two “competitive bids to operate and manage FDC’s leisure centres”.

The spokesman said: “Following an evaluation of submissions, a period of negotiation, and formal scoring of bids has been undertaken as set out in the tender process.

The decision to seek a new partner to manage the centres was taken during the council’s comprehensive spending review (CSR), which launched in late 2015 due to Government budget cuts and increased demand upon services.

A business case was prepared in 2016, with the development of a tender pack and legal documents carried out last year.

The former portfolio holder for leisure Cllr Michelle Tanfield said at the time that “this project is not about ‘selling off the leisure centres.

“The centres will always remain FDC property. This is about realising financial efficiencies and economies of scale that the council cannot access, making sure that we can continue to provide a great experience in the leisure centres for the community in Fenland in a sustainable way for many years to come.”

She added: “All staff, particularly those working in the leisure centres, will be kept fully informed about the progress of this project.”

The decision to seek an external operator to run them was one of the major decisions following the council’s Comprehensive Spending Review that was launched in late 2015.

In October 2016 Cabinet asked officers to prepare a full business case based on “going to the market” for a leisure operator.

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