Service Reviews

Service Reviews
We are often asked to provide an external assessment of leisure services or facilities. This type of review can be concerned with a whole service or one or more parts of a basket of services.

A sample of service reviews we have undertaken includes:

• A review and options appraisal for Macclesfield Borough Council of their portfolio of leisure and cultural services. We undertook a wide ranging consultation exercise with staff and external stakeholders and a detailed financial appraisal. We recommended transfer to a not for profit operation, an expansion of the council’s arts development function and playing pitch improvements through Football Foundation funding. The council accepted our recommendations in full and they are now being implemented.

• Two reviews for Chelmsford Borough Council for the Leisure and Cultural Services Directorate and the Parks and Country Parks section of the Environment Directorate:

– A detailed review and options appraisal of the entire leisure culture and parks portfolio. We challenged the council on the links between the leisure services and its corporate objective of making Chelmsford the key centre for inward investment into Essex. Leisure is now fully integrated into all aspects of corporate planning and Chelmsford uses culture as a major marketing theme.

– A review of the work the events section and their sport and arts development teams. All three were threatened with closure as the council sought funding cuts. We ran a challenge workshop day and conducted a round of stakeholder consultations. We concluded that the three teams made a positive and measurable contribution to the local economy through grant leverage and their role in the annual V Festival. The council accepted our recommendations and the team remains in place.

• A review and options appraisal of West Lindsey District Council’s leisure management contract. We reviewed the working of the contract and concluded that it was unsatisfactory for a number of reasons. In particular the lack of incentives on the part of the contractor to carry out good maintenance had resulted in high customer dissatisfaction. We recommended an open approach to tendering linked to new investment which resulted in the appointment of a new contractor and much improved satisfaction.

• A service improvement review of the Newham City Farm and East Ham Nature Reserve for the London Borough of Newham. We conducted the review of the facilities using Best Value principles and concluded that a Trust should be established to run the Farm (below), with the management of the nature reserve passing to an existing environmental body.

• An evaluation for the Bedford PVE Task Group, a multi-agency working group, on local projects that were in receipt of funding from the Home Office’s Prevention of Violent Extremism programme. This involved reviewing project outputs in relation to the programme objectives.

Increasingly we are being asked to link service reviews to management options appraisals. We are fully conversant with the pros and cons of in-house management, contracting with a private operator, contracting with a not-for-profit “trust” and devoling responsibility to the community.