The best leisure operations are constantly seeking to improve financial and operational performance and use external organisations to review and suggest positive changes. We are, therefore, 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:
- Two reviews for Chelmsford City 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.
- Kings House School, Richmond commissioned us to undertake a financial and operational review of their community sports and conference operation at Duke’s Meadow in Hounslow. We carried out a detailed analysis of the financial performance and operational practice and made recommendations for improvements including the appointment of a general manager. The school accepted and actioned all recommendations.
- The University of Nottingham asked us to carry out a review of their membership and booking systems which had drawn cricitism from staff and students at their central Nottingham campus. This was also prompted by ambitious plans for major improvements to their stock of facilties. We recommended a number of improvements including simplification of their requirements of the service provider and a more customer centred reception function.
- We completed a five year business plan for the Millwall Community Scheme, one of the earliest Football in the Community schemes. This was in response to changes in chartiy legislation. We produced a plan to identify the best ways in which it could continue to deliver its founding objectives to provide sporting, educational, social and healthy lifestyle opportunities to the local communities of Lewisham and Southwark at affordable prices. Our recommendations enabled the Scheme to develop new areas of work in the sphere of public health and to obtain funding from the FA Premier League.
- 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 devolving responsibility to the community.
- A strategic and operational review of their library service for the London Borough of Merton. The service had comparatively low levels of library membership, issues and levels of customer satisfaction. We carried out a detailed review including extensive consultation with customers and staff and made a number of recommendations including exploration of external management. This latter course was discounted but all other recommendations implemented. Based on the improvement plan the borough achieved £2 million external funding from the National Lottery.
- A strategic and operational review of their library service for the Bournemouth Borough Council. The service had comparatively high levels of library membership, issues and good levels of customer satisfaction. We carried out a detailed review including extensive consultation with customers and staff and found a high standard service with ground breaking practice in a number of areas. We made a small number of recommendations for fine tuning the service.
- UK Sport: An operational review for UK Sport on the establishment of the Lottery-funded World Class Performance programme, which included developing prioritisation criteria, distribution, monitoring and review systems. The recommendations were adopted and the programme continues to achieve medal-winning success.
- National Ice Skating Association: A review of the structure and operation of the National Ice Skating Association, which included structure and governance, operational objectives and future strategy. The association accepted the report and recommendations.