A NEW operator for Chichester’s leisure services has been announced this afternoon (Monday, February 22).
Chichester District Council has approved a bid by Sports and Leisure Management Ltd (SLM) to run its three Westgate Leisure sites and sports development service.
The appointment follows a detailed review of the running of the Chichester, Southbourne and Midhurst facilities, which decided they should be outsourced.
Cabinet member for the economy Gillian Keegan said: “We are incredibly proud of our leisure services and so for us this decision was about how we can continue to deliver them at the high standard that they are now.
“Critical to this was finding the right company that we could work in partnership with going forward.
“In the current economic climate, we have to look at new ways of doing things in order to maintain and protect council services. This decision will result in significant savings.
“This decision will not only protect our leisure services, which we know plays an important role within our local communities, but it will also help to protect other council services.”
Mrs Keegan said SLM, which operates as ‘Everyone Active’, is responsible for numerous sites, so had greater economies of scale to tap into.
The council will retain ownership of the buildings and has set strict standards that the operator must meet.
Mrs Keegan added: “It is important to point out that we still own the centres and we will manage the contract. We expect SLM Ltd to meet our objectives, which include increasing participation and supporting initiatives to improve health and wellbeing.
“We understand that customers may be concerned about future pricing and so this has also been covered within the contract. There is also a process to ensure the management company performs to the standards that we expect.
“Many other councils across the country have successfully adopted this approach and so this way of working is definitely tried and tested. Providing our residents with high quality services in the most cost effective way is our priority.
The new operator will take over in May.
Existing staff will transfer to the organisation.
David Bibby, managing director of SLM, said: “We are delighted to be chosen by Chichester District Council to manage the district’s leisure services. The partnership will help to further improve the popular leisure centres and provide a wide range of advanced facilities for the local people to enjoy.
“Our company aim is to encourage more local communities to take part in physical activity and, ultimately, live a healthier lifestyle.
“We look forward to working with the council to achieve that mission here in Chichester and our focus is now on ensuring that all three centres are managed to the highest standard when we begin operating them in May.”