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Health & Leisure Review

26.02.2020: We are continuing our review of how we run our health and leisure centres (started in March 2018) in order to provide a high quality, sustainable leisure service.  

Cllr Mark Steele, Portfolio Holder for Health and Wellbeing, latest statement following Council on 24 February:

We are currently closely evaluating the four bids we received on 31 January 2020 and will continue to keep customers regularly updated. 

This review is a thorough process to ensure that the health and leisure local community facilities are sustainable now and going forward for the future. There are many other local authorities who have successfully done this over the last few years and partnered with prominent providers and charities, and it would be remiss of us not to take a look at how we do things here in the New Forest.

Our aim is to improve the running of the leisure centres, at no cost to the council taxpayers and to receive a fee that helps pay for the leisure centres' increasing maintenance costs and protect the financial sustainability of the leisure centres for the longer term.

Over the next 10 years the centres will need even more financial investment, so we will use the fee from any new arrangement to help keep the centres running well for the communities both locally to the leisure centres and from across the New Forest.

These are key community facilities and we recognise that individuals who attend our active lifestyle programme are amongst those with greatest need. This aspect along with the continued access to the lifestyle programme has been protected both within the programming and pricing in our specification. We have specified that, should a contract be put in place, the operator is not able to increase pricing above the annual rate of CPI without the authority's approval.

Subject to any Council decision in July 2020, any operational management change would start no earlier than January 2021.

January 2020:  Document detailing the specification

Please note: This specification is the current draft of a document that will be used if we select a provider. It sets out what a provider would be required to deliver, should we reach that stage in this leisure review.

We are sharing it now so that the detail around what we are specifying as we move forward with our review can be seen by interested parties. Bidders will need to demonstrate how they meet what we have stipulated in this specification.  It has been robustly drawn up with input from a range of specialists, including legal, procurement, maintenance, surveyors, and the leisure service and it has been written in such a way that any future service either meets or exceeds our existing standards.

adobe icon Leisure review contract specification [868kb]


December 2019: Q&As from recent customer forums


Reasons for doing the review

Q. Why can't you keep the centres in-house and not go through this process?

A. We continue to explore ways to optimise the delivery of our services and this exercise is being done to look to improve the running and maintenance costs and protect the financial sustainability of the centres over the longer term.  Over the next 10 years the centres will need even more financial input. We hope to use the fee the new provider will pay to invest for the future and help us to keep the centres running well. Lots of other local authorities have partnered with other providers and gained larger economies of scale and savings on energy costs and gym equipment. The bidders will have more large-scale expertise in leisure and the improvements needed to survive in this difficult highly competitive market.

Q. If the Council will maintain overall control of the buildings and the new partner will have to consult with you about any changes, what would they get from this partnership? Why would they pay you to run the Centres?

A. The partner would have control of the internal areas of the centres, including gym equipment but not the external infrastructure or pools. The reason we are doing this procurement exercise is that we are struggling to cover the maintenance costs of our aging buildings and also income levels are dropping due to local competition. We are looking to partner with a provider so that they can give added value to our customers and improve our current provision. Some larger organisations will have larger economies of scale and are likely to get greater discounts. They should also have more experience and expertise than our current provision and create new opportunities we cannot. Any potential bidders will be closely compared with our in-house provision and will have to be evaluated as offering additional added value as well as a financial benefit to the Council.


Q. Will we still get multi-site membership of all Centres with the new provider?

A. We haven't put it in the contract yet but we will look at this in the evaluation process.   Most providers provide multi-site use.

Q. Can the new provider increase prices by more than CPI (Consumer Price Index)?

A. Yes, they can make a recommendation to increase prices above CPI to the Council.  The Council would only consider such recommendation after fully considering the implications on our customers and community.

Q. Is Price for Life protected

A. Yes, no changes can be made without customer consent.


Q. Will the clubs be protected?

A. In the event of us entering into an agreement with a third party as a result of this review, it will be a contractual requirement for the Operator to honour the existing clubs' bookings which will be monitored by the Contract Manager. The earliest date of any agreement commencing will be 1 January 2021, and therefore these bookings will be honoured until 1 January 2022.   During the remaining period of the contract the Operator will need to provide us their proposed programming

3 months prior to any contract year. We would expect the Operator to take any proposed changes to the relevant customer forums for feedback before making any recommendations to the Authority.

The contract also sets out that we expect the Operator to continue to support arrangements with clubs and enable these to be expanded to meet demand where possible.

We have asked bidders how they will engage with clubs as part of the evaluation questions. We have also asked how the Operator will ensure that clubs continue to remain a key part of the overall programme and we would expect to see this reflected in the business plans that they submit to us as part of their bid.

Q. The classes put on currently, will they maintain these, specifically the Active Lifestyles classes?

A. We hope they will continue to offer a similar provision for fitness classes. Obviously, they will want to follow current trends and introduce new classes like we try to, so we cannot guarantee the classes will stay exactly the same. But if anything we hope they improve and increase the classes available.  And yes, the Active Lifestyles provision is protected in the contract so they cannot remove it or make changes without our consent.


Q. Will staff transfer to new provider?

A.  Yes all staff who spend more than 60% of their time on the Leisure service will TUPE transfer to the new provider

Q.  Are staff being kept up to date on review

A.  Yes, at the end of November we did further staff briefings at each of our sites, it is very important that we communicate with our staff regularly and ensure if they have any questions we answer them.

Bidders/Procurement process

Q. How many bidders are through to the next stage of the process

A.  4 organisations are through to the next stage of the process.  They have been asked to make their full bids by 31 January 2020 (has been slightly extended due to the Christmas period)

Q. What happens if you don't like any of the bidders? Will you halt the process and look at other options or go out again for tender?

A. If no bidder is successful we will stay as we are.  One other model we are exploring is the Arms-length trust or NFDC company. However, with the VAT changes earlier this year, this model does not provide as many advantages as it previously did.

Q. Can you confirm they will take all five centres?

A. Yes, they are being asked to take on all five centres as one contract.

Q. Will the specification be available to us to read as soon as possible please?

A. We are looking to make the specification available by mid-January after some editing of confidential information.

 Q. What if they offer things we don't want during the process, can we give our view?

A. We will hold further customer forums in April when any preferred bidder will present to our customers and staff, we will take any feedback from these forums and this will be detailed in any decision-making reports to councillors.

Q. How will you address the bidder presentations and advertise them? And will you offer various times to suit?

A. We will try to accommodate everyone as best we can in timings and locations for the presentations. We intend to have them at several locations and different times of the day.

Q. During the bidder presentation will we get to ask the bidder questions about anything?

A. When the time comes to present a bidder, or bidders, to you we will think about how to structure the question asking side of things. It may be that we let them present and then they leave the room and you feedback to us on any questions you have or comments and then we will make sure they get asked of the bidder before final evaluation. It will be easier to structure if we only have one bidder, but if we have two we need to make sure they are asked exactly the same questions to ensure it's a fair process, hence the need to restrict questions during the presentation.

Q. How will you ensure they definitely follow the contract?

A. We will have a contract manager in place to oversee the contract and ensure the provider keep to the specification. We foresee the provider and contract manager meeting regularly.  There will also be a Contract Partnership Board, which will include the Portfolio Holder for Leisure and Wellbeing and senior officers of the Council, we expect these meetings to be monthly to start and move to quarterly at a later date.

Q. Who will make the final decision?

A.   The final decision will be made by full Council which includes all 60 elected councillors.


Q.  When will you receive the full bids from the providers

A.  Since the customer forums, we have extended the bidder submission from 20 January to 31 January 2020.

Q.  When will the next customer forums take place

A.   These forums will take place once we are down to two shortlisted bidders or one preferred bidder, we now envisage this will be late April 2020.

Q.   When will you make a decision

A.    The provisional timescale is that Cabinet and Council will consider any recommendation in July 2020.

Q.  If you find a successful bidder when will they take up the new arrangement.

A.   The earliest any new arrangement will take place is 1 January 2021

November 2019: Update and dates for upcoming customer forums

Please find below the notes from the customer focus group meeting. 

Notes from Leisure Review - Customer Focus Group, held Monday 4 November 2019
The second Customer Focus Group took place on Monday 4 November 2019 at 6pm at Appletree Court, Lyndhurst. The meeting was attended by:

  • Customer representatives 
  • Cllr M Steele (Portfolio Holder, Leisure and Wellbeing)
  • M Sandhu (Executive Head, Resources including Health and Leisure)
  • J Bailey (Service Manager, Health and Leisure)
  • M Jackson (Multi-Centre Manager)
  • R Archibald (Multi-Centre Manager)

NFDC officers showed the group the initial presentation on the first stage of the procurement process, a more detailed version would be presented at stakeholder panel on Thursday 7 November.

A nomination was requested at the last meeting for a member or two to attend the stakeholder panel - all of the group are welcome to attend if they so wish.

The presentation covered the Expressions of Interest (EOI) process and outlined the stage of Invitation to Negotiate which follows the EOI stage. This is the standard procurement process that is followed for any tender.

A general discussion followed the presentation. Questions, answers and comments:

Q. How do the bidders nominate their references, and do we have a choice over which references are approached?

A. During the Invitation to Negotiate stage we will ask the companies interested to provide three references that are as close as possible to the New Forest in terms of size of contract and location. We would contact the councils that the contract was with rather than individual leisure providers.

Q. Why haven't any of the 'bidders' scored a 9 or 10, which means they have greatly exceeded the evaluation criteria?

A. The scores of 7 and 8 were based on the fact they were bringing added value to the contract over the in-house provision. And at this stage the objective was to identify a maximum of five to take through to the next stage.

Q. If the successful bidder felt they could not continue without increasing prices by say 10%, would the council step in and stop that decision?

A. Yes, the council would need to approve this decision before it could be implemented.

Q. If the successful bidder wanted to change or remove Price for Life what would the process be?

A. If they wanted to do this they would have to discuss it with the affected customers and negotiate any changes with them directly. This is a protected part of the programme and therefore has to be agreed with the Council.

At this point the performance measures that would have financial penalties if key performance indicators (KPIs) were not met by the contractor were discussed with the group.

Q. If a successful bidder has taken over the provision, could new staff be recruited on worse conditions than the current staff, who are TUPe'd* over? For example, on casual or zero hour contracts?

A. This is being discussed at the Employee Side Liaison Panel as the Trade Unions have raised these issues. We want to ensure any new operator has good employment practices, but what they offer may be different to our current terms and conditions, ie performance pay, bonuses etc.

We would also stipulate new staff have certain minimum qualifications which are standard across the Industry, and that we would protect both the quality of equipment and the response time to keep equipment fully operational.

Q. How are the areas of maintenance going to be broken down and will it be clear to the new provider which areas they are responsible for as well as which bits of equipment? Should there be a budget for the 'grey areas' or unexpected maintenance that may occur maybe?

A. It will be clearly indicated in the specification who is responsible for each area of maintenance (Council or operator) and this will apply to both internal and external. Yes, there will be budgets for 'reactive' maintenance.

Q. Will there be anything put in place or into the specification to ensure that current club owners' bookings are honoured?

A. The new provider would need to have flexibility over programming. Currently, the provision now is flexible with programming to meet demands and trends, and it would continue in the same way.   All current bookings will be detailed in the specification.

Q. Is there any chance the sports hall at Lymington will be reopened by the new provider?

A. We have discussed this with the school and have agreed that on a monthly basis the school will let any operator have the available hours for bookings.

The customer representatives commented that they are still to be convinced that this process is the correct one for the Leisure Service and feel the in-house provision with the right resources and training will always be superior to the private sector provision.

The reps do feel the process is very detailed and diligent, but are concerned that after going through this lengthy process with much involvement and commitment, that it would be difficult to turn around and reject any bidders and stay with the in-house provision? It was confirmed by the NFDC team that they will only go forward with a preferred bidder if it is the best option for the service and the council.

The timeline for the procurement process was then looked at and details of the customer forum and staff briefing dates were shown to the group. The marketing team are creating posters and looking at marketing methods now, so all customer and staff will be made aware of the briefing dates in multiple ways.

The next Customer Focus Group meeting is scheduled for 9 December but with the General Election imminent it is difficult to find rooms and times for availability. The reps were asked if they are happy if the next meeting is cancelled and to meet on 13 January 2020 instead? The reps reply they are happy for this to happen as they will more than likely attend a customer forum session in centres in December anyway.

Q. Can the Council provide the names of the bidders to this group? Can the customer reps help to research any potential bidders?

A. No, unfortunately we cannot provide you with names, or let you assist with research, at this stage as the procurement process is confidential. Names will only be released when we reach the stage of having one or two preferred bidders, at that point we will be asking the bidder(s) to present to a large number of forums which will include customers to assist with the decision.

Your representatives at these meetings are as follows

Sean Dawtry (Applemore Health & Leisure)

Lindsey Shelley (Applemore Health & Leisure)

James Gill (Lymington Health & Leisure)

Stuart Nundy (Lymington Health & Leisure)

Peter Williams (Ringwood Health & Leisure)

Rex Fryatt (Totton Health & Leisure)

John Caslake  (New Milton)

Dave Hills (Totton Health & Leisure)

Heather Stokes (Ringwood Health & Leisure)

Jeffrey Goldsmith (Applemore Health & Leisure)

You can contact your representative in a number of ways

  1. Leave a message or note at reception - which your rep can pick up when they are next in.
  2. Email the Leisure review email and we will ensure that your representative gets your email.

We are holding more customer forums on the following dates:

Please join us at any of the sessions so we can update you on the Health and Leisure review so far

Monday 2 December
New Milton Health and Leisure | 12noon - 1.00pm | Studio 2
Applemore Health and Leisure | 6.00pm - 7.00pm | Sports Hall

Tuesday 3 December
Ringwood Health and Leisure | 12.30pm - 1.30pm | Cycle Studio
Lymington Health and Leisure | 6.00pm - 7.00pm | Studio 2

Wednesday 4 December
Totton Health and Leisure | 12.15pm - 1.15pm | Studio 2

*Employees protected under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) regulations (TUPE)

Update October 2019:

We are progressing well with the latest stage of the health and leisure review which will see 'expressions of interest' from companies who may wish to partner with us to run the Health & Leisure centres. 

We held a bidder open day in early October for companies who were interested in learning more about our centres. This included a presentation and a tour of each of the five centres. 

This stage of the procurement closes on 18 October, when the project evaluation panel in consultation with key stakeholders will review the expressions of interest and shortlist up to five providers to proceed to the next stage.   

While this procurement stage continues, we held the first customer focus group meeting, made up of customers who have volunteered to be representatives for the five centres.  Their role is to hear updates from the project team and raise any questions from centre members and customers.  

You can raise a question about the review with a customer focus group rep by emailing (please say which centre you use so we know which rep to pass your question to).  Your comments and questions will be raised at a future customer focus group, which are held every four weeks.We will also be holding customer forums in early December. These meetings are for any customer to come along to.  Please check here and in-centre nearer the time for dates and details. 

Link to:  Archive - previous updates for the leisure review

Updated: 27 Feb 2020
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