Council cabinet to discuss plans to transfer leisure and golf facilities to preferred bidders.
The UK’s largest social enterprise leisure provider and a specialist golf company have been identified as the preferred bidders to take over the running of Swindon Borough Council’s leisure and golf facilities.
Councillors will discuss whether to recommend the transfer of Swindon’s leisure and golf facilities to Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL) and Twigmarket Limited, respectively, at the abinet meeting on Wednesday 25 June. Read the reports here.
A bid process was undertaken after the Council’s Cabinet agreed last July to invite expressions of interest from commercial and not-for-profit organisations to take over the running of the council’s leisure facilities on long-term leases.
The permitted use under all of the leases will be for leisure only.
The decision was based on the council’s need to make further significant savings over the next three years (currently £48m). The current annual subsidy for leisure and golf is £1.4m, while the current level of backlog maintenance for the facilities is £4.1m. By transferring the facilities on long-term leases, the council would ensure they have the best chance of remaining sustainable and secure investment for the sites.
The leisure centres concerned include Croft Sports Centre, Delta Tennis Centre, Dorcan Recreation Complex, Haydon Centre, Health Hydro and the Link Centre. There is an option to include Highworth Recreation Centre at a later date.
The golf courses included Broome Manor, Highworth and Moredon.
Above, Link Centre in West Swindon. Right, British swimmer Jaz Carlin with Swindon Dolphins at the Link pool. Below, keen athlete coun Keith Williams, cabinet member for leisure
GLL, a not-for-profit organisation which also manages the Oasis Leisure Centre and has been given a number of awards and accreditations, has emerged as the preferred bidder to take over the running of the Council’s six leisure facilities.
The council received a number of bids to run its facilities and GLL, which already operates 140 leisure facilities (including the London Aquatics Centre and Copper Box Arena in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park), came out on top against the bid criteria.
The offer to run the leisure facilities includes a 25-year lease, five to 10-year keep open clauses and the removal of the 99 and 999-year lease options. Marlborough Lane has also been removed from the transfer plan.
Twigmarket Limited has emerged as the preferred bidder to take over the running of the Council’s two golf courses at Highworth and Broome Manor.
Twigmarket has been involved with public golf courses and driving ranges since 1990 and is a family-run business. The company currently operates Trent Park Golf Course in North London and is committed to municipal style ‘pay and play’ local authority golf courses. As with leisure, the council received a number of bids to run its golf courses and Twigmarket came out top against the bid criteria for golf.
The offer to run the golf facilities includes a 25-year lease for Highworth and 75-year lease for Broome Manor with 15 and 25-year keep open clauses, respectively, and the removal of the 99 and 999-year lease options. The longer lease for Broome Manor reflects the market conditions for golf and the level of investment required to sustain the facilities for the longer term.
Cabinet will also be asked to look for alternative recreational uses for Moredon golf course, as the bid process confirmed the Council’s view that it is not economically viable to run. It will remain a green open space.
Before they make a decision next Wednesday, councillors will consider the results of two consultations carried out earlier this year.
A borough-wide consultation was undertaken between 8 January and 3 March and received 817 responses from residents and service users. The over-riding concern raised by 71% of those taking part in the consultation was increased admission charges, while the next largest concern (16%) related to reductions in service.
A further consultation regarding the playing fields at Dorcan and Croft was carried out to obtain all necessary consents required from the Secretary of State (Education) to enable any transfer of the playing fields and land contained within the proposed leases to a third party operator.
This consultation received 449 responses, 445 of which concerned Croft. A petition with more than 1,650 signatures was also received urging the removal of the Croft playing fields, Marlborough Lane and Croft Leisure Centre car park from the transfer proposals.
If cabinet approve the recommendation of the preferred bidders, the proposal will be debated at full council and, if agreed, a TUPE consultation exercise will take place with all relevant staff prior to them transferring over to the new operator. All facilities and staff transfer could take place on 1 November, subject to approval.
Cllr Keith Williams, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Corporate Services and Leisure, left, said: “We are facing an incredibly challenging financial position as a council which means we have to make difficult decisions, particularly when it comes to our non-statutory services.
“If we sat still and did nothing with our leisure and golf offer we would almost certainly be looking at closing facilities as our resources are continually being stretched year on year. This is why I am delighted we have been able to put forward preferred bidders in GLL and Twigmarket who will not only ensure our facilities are sustainable in the medium to long term, but have the resources to enhance them in the years to come.
“Both GLL and Twigmarket have an excellent track record and met all our key outcomes in the bid evaluation process so I will be urging my cabinet colleagues to support the recommendations outlined in the cabinet report to maintain the fantastic leisure offer that we have in Swindon.”
Read the detailed reports at here.