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Health Club Management

Health Club Management

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UNITING THE WORLD OF FITNESS
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Health Club Management

Health Club Management

features

Leisure Trusts: Going it alone

What’s it like being an independent trust in this challenging financial climate? What are these trusts doing to ensure their facilities survive and thrive? Vicky Kiernander talks to three independent leisure trusts to find out

By Vicky Kiernander | Published in Health Club Management 2017 issue 5
Tonbridge & Malling Leisure Trust's freedom to innovate has led to an ‘outstanding’ Quest result
Tonbridge & Malling Leisure Trust's freedom to innovate has led to an ‘outstanding’ Quest result

Neil West,

CEO,

Active Life

Neil West
Neil West

Active Life was established in 2002 to operate Canterbury City Council’s five indoor leisure centres. We now operate six facilities and extensive health promotion and sports development programmes. We have a board of 12 and it’s essential in my view that the majority of trustees are regular users of the facilities, passionate about the value of the service and committed to the staff who deliver it.

We’ve generated significant financial returns from commercial activity, which we use to subsidise a large swathe of activity for even greater social returns, such as supporting girls and women back into netball, primary school activities for children and their families, walking football, teen gym sessions, dance mats and roller skating within secondary schools. We also offer a heavily subsidised price concession scheme for those on low incomes, to the point that 20 per cent of our total admissions are now from these customers.

We’ve formed partnerships with many local groups, including homeless charity Porchlight, to use physical activity to improve a range of social outcomes.

From a business perspective, I’m most proud of our survival through some extremely challenging years given the absence of any contribution from the NNDR and VAT savings made by the council at transfer.

Our significant investment in fitness facilities and programmes generates returns at the top end of metrics nationally and on the only occasion we entered a national awards scheme, we won the local authority/leisure trust gym of the year and were runner-up in the health promotion category. Our ‘gentle gym’ – which offers motorised equipment – shows an understanding of, and commitment to satisfying, the needs of the community. This is a must in a local authority facility, yet is sometimes overlooked as venues try to keep up with the private sector.

I believe our greatest success has been the gradual evolution from an in-house contracting organisation to one with a community feel and personality, created by the staff and trustees who have a sense of ownership and pride in delivering a worthwhile service. This can’t be identified merely by looking at balance sheets. It’s something that comes across to our customers and visitors through the ambience and culture of the organisation – something that has been verified by various performance indicators, net promoter scores and surveys.

The service could be operated for less by a larger organisation – indeed, it may yet have to be in this financial climate – but the trick will be to protect local focus and relationships rather than creating a shell service with no heart or soul.

"Financial returns from commercial activity are used to subsidise activities for even greater social returns" – Neil West

Active Life has formed strong bonds across the community
Active Life has formed strong bonds across the community

Martin Guyton,

CEO,

Tonbridge & Malling Leisure Trust

Martin Guyton
Martin Guyton

Formed in 2013 and trading as tmactive, we operate three leisure centres and a golf course. We’re monitored by the local authority, but we also use Quest to ensure quality of service: two of our sites are in an elite band of 16 sites nationally that hold the outstanding mark.

The transition to trust status was challenging. Ensuring the financial stability of the trust was the priority, but we had to balance that with providing quality of service. We also had to change from a public sector ethos to a commercial operation with a conscience.

The composition and work of our board is vital to our success. Board members are local people and in many instances users of our facilities. They are embedded in the community and want to see our facilities survive and thrive. Under their guidance, we have the freedom to innovate and manage our facilities in the most productive way.

As a trust with a single focus, we can respond quicker to gaps in resources and provision; the local authority is a bigger machine with lots of different roles.

Over the last four years, we’ve reduced our subsidy and anticipate future reductions. We’ve also built up significant capital reserves and already invested approximately £200,000 in services. We expect to invest a further £1.5m over the next five years. We’ve also grown our income by around 15 per cent without any significant price increases.

At the same time, we’ve developed an arm of our activity that focuses on community health: our community fund awards grants to local physical activity projects; we’ve employed a senior manager and a co-ordinator for health and wellbeing; and we’ve developed partnerships with organisations such as MIND, the Dementia Society, Alzheimer’s Society, disability groups and housing trusts to improve the local health profile.

Our staff are the cornerstone of what we do. We’re keen to be the employer of choice for local people. This year we’re investing in significant customer experience training and are also running NPLQ training for local sports students, giving them skills for employment.

It would have been very difficult to achieve any of this had we stayed under council control. Local authorities are facing significant cuts and we could have fallen victim to those cuts. But because of the investment we’ve been able to make, we’ve seen growth in staff, customers and investment in our sites. The council should be applauded for putting its leisure services into trust; they recognised the winds of change and took appropriate action to protect and develop these vital services.

"Board members are local people, embedded in the community, who want to see our facilities survive and thrive" – Martin Guyton

Duncan Kerr,

CEO,

Wave Leisure Trust

Duncan Kerr
Duncan Kerr

Wave was formed in 2006 as a registered charitable company limited by guarantee, and a social enterprise. Its purpose: to inspire active lifestyles. Its vision: to be at the heart of the improvement of health and wellbeing in the community. We also have a key role to play in building a sense of community and social cohesion.

The trust manages nine facilities on behalf of Lewes District Council, East Sussex County Council and in partnership with Seaford Head Primary School, Ringmer Academy and Priory School.

Irrespective of competitors, recognising that customers have a choice drives us to keep the quality of our service high. We’ve built a management team around our core business objectives, so there’s a strong connection between our purpose and vision and what we do on a day-to-day basis. By reducing layers of management, we’ve brought senior managers closer to front-line staff and the customer, which is key to understanding how we can have greater impact in our community.

Our committed trustees and good governance are also pivotal to our success and we invest considerable time in the recruitment process. Ensuring relevant skills and experience are drawn from the local community is key to our focus on local service provision.

Although we’re an independent trust, we also value and recognise the importance of the relationship between us and Lewes District Council. True partnership is based on respect and we must work to achieve our partner’s goals and priorities as much as our own.

We understand the importance of working in our wider community and continually develop, manage and deliver a range of quality facilities and outreach initiatives. We’ve made a significant investment in creating a dedicated community engagement team, for example, who run outreach initiatives and engage people in activity.

And we’ve enjoyed many achievements, including winning Quest’s Top Performing Facility in the UK for two successive years; winning Best Employer at the Lewes Business Awards 2016; and the fact that we continue to re-invest and thrive despite a challenging financial environment.

However, these achievements must be put into context against our purpose and vision, which relate directly to our impact in the local community, and to our priorities as defined by Lewes District Council. For example, winning Best Employer: our team comes from our local community, so by investing in our staff we’re actually investing in our community. Every member of our team has a voice, and we want that voice to positively promote Wave within the community.

We also provide an annual Community Fund of £3,000, which has so far awarded £28,420 in grants to 137 successful applicants. These awards provide funding for a range of things, including team kit, NGB subscriptions, travel expenses and equipment. It’s another way we’re able to reinvest in our community.

"Irrespective of competitors, recognising that customers have a choice drives us to keep service quality high" – Duncan Kerr

Wave aims to be at the very heart of community health improvement
Wave aims to be at the very heart of community health improvement
Sign up here to get HCM's weekly ezine and every issue of HCM magazine free on digital.
Wave Leisure Trust has invested heavily in a dedicated community engagement team
Wave Leisure Trust has invested heavily in a dedicated community engagement team
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/541186_437527.jpg
What’s it like being an independent trust in this challenging financial climate? We talk to three leisure operators to see how they’re surviving and thriving
Vicky Kiernander, Freelance Journalist Neil West, CEO, Active Life Martin Guyton, CEO, Tonbridge & Malling Leisure Trust Duncan Kerr, CEO, Wave Leisure Trust ,Independent leisure trusts, Active Life, Canterbury City Council, Tonbridge & Malling Leisure Trust, tmactive, Quest, Mind, the dementia society, Alzheimer’s society, Wave Leisure Trust, Lewes District Council, East Sussex County Council, Seaford Head Primary School, Ringmer Academy, Priory School,
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features

Leisure Trusts: Going it alone

What’s it like being an independent trust in this challenging financial climate? What are these trusts doing to ensure their facilities survive and thrive? Vicky Kiernander talks to three independent leisure trusts to find out

By Vicky Kiernander | Published in Health Club Management 2017 issue 5
Tonbridge & Malling Leisure Trust's freedom to innovate has led to an ‘outstanding’ Quest result
Tonbridge & Malling Leisure Trust's freedom to innovate has led to an ‘outstanding’ Quest result

Neil West,

CEO,

Active Life

Neil West
Neil West

Active Life was established in 2002 to operate Canterbury City Council’s five indoor leisure centres. We now operate six facilities and extensive health promotion and sports development programmes. We have a board of 12 and it’s essential in my view that the majority of trustees are regular users of the facilities, passionate about the value of the service and committed to the staff who deliver it.

We’ve generated significant financial returns from commercial activity, which we use to subsidise a large swathe of activity for even greater social returns, such as supporting girls and women back into netball, primary school activities for children and their families, walking football, teen gym sessions, dance mats and roller skating within secondary schools. We also offer a heavily subsidised price concession scheme for those on low incomes, to the point that 20 per cent of our total admissions are now from these customers.

We’ve formed partnerships with many local groups, including homeless charity Porchlight, to use physical activity to improve a range of social outcomes.

From a business perspective, I’m most proud of our survival through some extremely challenging years given the absence of any contribution from the NNDR and VAT savings made by the council at transfer.

Our significant investment in fitness facilities and programmes generates returns at the top end of metrics nationally and on the only occasion we entered a national awards scheme, we won the local authority/leisure trust gym of the year and were runner-up in the health promotion category. Our ‘gentle gym’ – which offers motorised equipment – shows an understanding of, and commitment to satisfying, the needs of the community. This is a must in a local authority facility, yet is sometimes overlooked as venues try to keep up with the private sector.

I believe our greatest success has been the gradual evolution from an in-house contracting organisation to one with a community feel and personality, created by the staff and trustees who have a sense of ownership and pride in delivering a worthwhile service. This can’t be identified merely by looking at balance sheets. It’s something that comes across to our customers and visitors through the ambience and culture of the organisation – something that has been verified by various performance indicators, net promoter scores and surveys.

The service could be operated for less by a larger organisation – indeed, it may yet have to be in this financial climate – but the trick will be to protect local focus and relationships rather than creating a shell service with no heart or soul.

"Financial returns from commercial activity are used to subsidise activities for even greater social returns" – Neil West

Active Life has formed strong bonds across the community
Active Life has formed strong bonds across the community

Martin Guyton,

CEO,

Tonbridge & Malling Leisure Trust

Martin Guyton
Martin Guyton

Formed in 2013 and trading as tmactive, we operate three leisure centres and a golf course. We’re monitored by the local authority, but we also use Quest to ensure quality of service: two of our sites are in an elite band of 16 sites nationally that hold the outstanding mark.

The transition to trust status was challenging. Ensuring the financial stability of the trust was the priority, but we had to balance that with providing quality of service. We also had to change from a public sector ethos to a commercial operation with a conscience.

The composition and work of our board is vital to our success. Board members are local people and in many instances users of our facilities. They are embedded in the community and want to see our facilities survive and thrive. Under their guidance, we have the freedom to innovate and manage our facilities in the most productive way.

As a trust with a single focus, we can respond quicker to gaps in resources and provision; the local authority is a bigger machine with lots of different roles.

Over the last four years, we’ve reduced our subsidy and anticipate future reductions. We’ve also built up significant capital reserves and already invested approximately £200,000 in services. We expect to invest a further £1.5m over the next five years. We’ve also grown our income by around 15 per cent without any significant price increases.

At the same time, we’ve developed an arm of our activity that focuses on community health: our community fund awards grants to local physical activity projects; we’ve employed a senior manager and a co-ordinator for health and wellbeing; and we’ve developed partnerships with organisations such as MIND, the Dementia Society, Alzheimer’s Society, disability groups and housing trusts to improve the local health profile.

Our staff are the cornerstone of what we do. We’re keen to be the employer of choice for local people. This year we’re investing in significant customer experience training and are also running NPLQ training for local sports students, giving them skills for employment.

It would have been very difficult to achieve any of this had we stayed under council control. Local authorities are facing significant cuts and we could have fallen victim to those cuts. But because of the investment we’ve been able to make, we’ve seen growth in staff, customers and investment in our sites. The council should be applauded for putting its leisure services into trust; they recognised the winds of change and took appropriate action to protect and develop these vital services.

"Board members are local people, embedded in the community, who want to see our facilities survive and thrive" – Martin Guyton

Duncan Kerr,

CEO,

Wave Leisure Trust

Duncan Kerr
Duncan Kerr

Wave was formed in 2006 as a registered charitable company limited by guarantee, and a social enterprise. Its purpose: to inspire active lifestyles. Its vision: to be at the heart of the improvement of health and wellbeing in the community. We also have a key role to play in building a sense of community and social cohesion.

The trust manages nine facilities on behalf of Lewes District Council, East Sussex County Council and in partnership with Seaford Head Primary School, Ringmer Academy and Priory School.

Irrespective of competitors, recognising that customers have a choice drives us to keep the quality of our service high. We’ve built a management team around our core business objectives, so there’s a strong connection between our purpose and vision and what we do on a day-to-day basis. By reducing layers of management, we’ve brought senior managers closer to front-line staff and the customer, which is key to understanding how we can have greater impact in our community.

Our committed trustees and good governance are also pivotal to our success and we invest considerable time in the recruitment process. Ensuring relevant skills and experience are drawn from the local community is key to our focus on local service provision.

Although we’re an independent trust, we also value and recognise the importance of the relationship between us and Lewes District Council. True partnership is based on respect and we must work to achieve our partner’s goals and priorities as much as our own.

We understand the importance of working in our wider community and continually develop, manage and deliver a range of quality facilities and outreach initiatives. We’ve made a significant investment in creating a dedicated community engagement team, for example, who run outreach initiatives and engage people in activity.

And we’ve enjoyed many achievements, including winning Quest’s Top Performing Facility in the UK for two successive years; winning Best Employer at the Lewes Business Awards 2016; and the fact that we continue to re-invest and thrive despite a challenging financial environment.

However, these achievements must be put into context against our purpose and vision, which relate directly to our impact in the local community, and to our priorities as defined by Lewes District Council. For example, winning Best Employer: our team comes from our local community, so by investing in our staff we’re actually investing in our community. Every member of our team has a voice, and we want that voice to positively promote Wave within the community.

We also provide an annual Community Fund of £3,000, which has so far awarded £28,420 in grants to 137 successful applicants. These awards provide funding for a range of things, including team kit, NGB subscriptions, travel expenses and equipment. It’s another way we’re able to reinvest in our community.

"Irrespective of competitors, recognising that customers have a choice drives us to keep service quality high" – Duncan Kerr

Wave aims to be at the very heart of community health improvement
Wave aims to be at the very heart of community health improvement
Sign up here to get HCM's weekly ezine and every issue of HCM magazine free on digital.
Wave Leisure Trust has invested heavily in a dedicated community engagement team
Wave Leisure Trust has invested heavily in a dedicated community engagement team
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/541186_437527.jpg
What’s it like being an independent trust in this challenging financial climate? We talk to three leisure operators to see how they’re surviving and thriving
Vicky Kiernander, Freelance Journalist Neil West, CEO, Active Life Martin Guyton, CEO, Tonbridge & Malling Leisure Trust Duncan Kerr, CEO, Wave Leisure Trust ,Independent leisure trusts, Active Life, Canterbury City Council, Tonbridge & Malling Leisure Trust, tmactive, Quest, Mind, the dementia society, Alzheimer’s society, Wave Leisure Trust, Lewes District Council, East Sussex County Council, Seaford Head Primary School, Ringmer Academy, Priory School,
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Opinion: 2021 is the year to prioritise global culture
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Featured supplier: Cryotherapy specialists, L&R Kältetechnik, launch new artofcryo.com division
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Click on a catalogue to view it online
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