The Council is set to approach the market to see what options are available for council-run sport and leisure facilities in Southend-on-Sea, with the existing contract set to expire in 2025.
The council’s cabinet will discuss a report which recommends starting a procurement exercise to appoint a provider to be the council’s leisure operator, following a decision made by cabinet in January 2022 not to extend the contract of existing leisure operator, Fusion Lifestyle beyond 2025.
If approved, the council will be looking for a 10 – 15-year contract with a leisure provider, which builds on the council’s health and wellbeing strategy, provides investment into the City’s facilities, and offers potential of increased revenue, whilst providing an excellent service for residents. The structure of the procurement could also give the relevant schools the opportunity to bid and operate their own facilities, where appropriate.
To help support the procurement exercise, the council will also be carrying out a user survey to gain a greater understanding of the needs of local people, and how they use existing leisure services in the City, particularly following the pandemic. This survey will help inform the future service specification.
Cllr Carole Mulroney, cabinet member for environment, culture and tourism, said: “As with a lot of businesses, the sport and leisure industry suffered greatly during the pandemic. Whilst the council provided financial support to Fusion Lifestyle throughout the last two years to ensure local people continued to have access to their fitness facilities, it was agreed by cabinet that we would go out to the market for our sport and leisure operations post 2025.
“The needs of local people have changed significantly since the pandemic with more people looking to keep fit and healthy, and it is important that we, as a council, do all we can to provide the level of service which is needed. This procurement exercise gives us the opportunity to see what other options are out there, and if approved we can start planning for a future contract which continues to prioritise the health and wellbeing of our residents. I look forward to discussing this with cabinet colleagues.”
Fusion Lifestyle, the council’s current leisure provider, undertook the management of the City’s leisure and sports facilities in 2015, signing a 10-year contract. With the contract set to expire in June 2025, the council took the decision not to extend that contract by a further five years, and instead look at alternative options. The report is set to be discussed by cabinet Tuesday 26 July (item 11).