The Committee considered a report of the outcomes of a review of all potential management options for the leisure and cultural facilities portfolio. The Committee was being asked to consider and comment on the proposed options, mainly to seek to enter into a partnership with an existing or hybrid Not for Profit Distributing Organisation (NPDO) for Sports, Leisure and Theatre services.
Clarification was requested in relation to the £191k savings referred to in the report. The Director of Community Services advised that this would be the savings on rates on transfer of the services however the Authority would be seeking considerably more reductions in cost. It was necessary to test the market to ensure that cost benefits would be deliverable. There would be the opportunity to scrutinise the detail at a later date.
Further information was asked for regarding the affordability level for a new Llanelli leisure centre. The Director of Corporate Services stated that there was a combination of factors with potentially up to £9m funding from the Llanelli Joint Venture. A Design Build Operate and Maintain model should minimise operating costs and it was hoped that unsupported borrowing would then fund the gap as well as any revenue savings. A new Centre would also provide an opportunity to provide a range of quality indoor facilities which were currently lacking in that area of the county, a destination rather than a traditional leisure centre.
In response to an additional question regarding previous failed outsourced management arrangements for the existing centre, the Head of Sports & Leisure advised that this had been under a very prescriptive and inflexible management contract with a commercial company. They were now looking for a longer term outcome focused contract with the opportunity to plan investments over a longer period. It would also be possible to specify the initial charging structure and link it to the cost of inflation as well as outcomes such as participation levels. Monitoring arrangements would also be put in place. Another advantage of partnering with an existing NPDO was that they would already have bespoke leisure systems, procedures and back office support in place. It would also reduce risks for the Authority as existing NPDOs would have proven track records in running such services.
Services excluded from the proposal were referred to and it was asked why these included public rights of way. The Head of Sports & Leisure noted that the legal aspects of this service had transferred to the Environment Department in April 2015.
The remaining services were referred to and concerns expressed that research into alternative management models should begin sooner rather than later given the need to make significant savings in future years. A careful approach would be needed given the nature of those services and to ensure confidence that high quality, sustainable services would be provided. The Director of Community Services agreed that this was the case. The Authority would have to be clear about what it was asking the market to provide. He advised that some preliminary work had been undertaken in relation to libraries and museums. He agreed to revisit this.
Further information was requested about the option of creating a new NPDO which was not being pursued. The Director of Community Services advised that this would have less of a track record than an existing NPDO and it would take considerably longer to reduce back-office costs as in-house provision was more expensive. It would not be possible to meet the net financial objective in the overall timeline. The Head of Sports & Leisure added that a new NPDO could involve him and his staff bidding against other existing NPDOs as part of the procurement process which would preclude them from being part of the tender assessment process.
6.1 Support the proposal that this Council seeks to enter into a partnership with an existing or hybrid Not for Profit Distributing Organisation for Sports and Leisure services plus Theatre services as recommended within the report.