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New management for South Somerset leisure centres expected spring 2021

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Goldenstones, Westlands Sports and Fitness Centre, Wincanton Community Sports Centre and the new Chard facility will have a new centre operators (management) next year with a final evaluation of tenders taking place in early 2021.

The current contract with LED Leisure Limited comes to an end on 31st March 2021, meaning South Somerset District Council must enter into a new management arrangement for its leisure facilities from this date.

SSDC’s District Executive Committee today agreed to delegate authority to a Specialist in Strategic Planning within the authority to appoint a preferred operator following the scoring of final tenders by the Council’s evaluation panel. This decision will be taken in conjunction with the Leader and Portfolio Holder for Health and Wellbeing. A reserve bidder will also be agreed if appropriate.

The Council currently has three leisure centres; Wincanton Community Sports Centre, Goldenstones and Westlands Sport and Fitness Centre in Yeovil. These centres are either owned or leased by the Council but are managed under a three separate management contracts with LED Leisure Limited.

Councillor Mike Best, portfolio holder for Health and Wellbeing, said: “As Councillors we have discussed the different options on the table in the past and now are getting to the end of a process. By asking that an Officer of the Council makes a delegated decision in conjunction with myself and the Leader, we will ensure the process is completed swiftly and in line with procurement and tendering rules.

“South Somerset has a healthy history or providing leisure facilities to residents and visitors and the addition of the Chard Leisure Centre adds to what we currently provide. We look forward to working with the new providers and ensuring our facilities are well kept after so they are well used.”

Why can’t the current contract be extended with LED Leisure Limited?

We either needed to extend the current contract or go on the market to invite tenders for a new contract. Following a review of Sport England guidance and careful consideration of management options, Members decided to instruct officers to seek tenders for a new single contract for all of its leisure centres.

LED Leisure Limited took the decision not to bid for the new contract in the current climate but remain committed to providing good quality services for customers for their remaining term

How has the current procurement process been carried out?

The Council opted for a procurement process which involves dialogue with potential operators in order to find the best delivery solution – so the best way to manage the sites.

Bidders were invited to submit their initial business proposals which have been scored against specific criteria. All bidders have had feedback on how their initial proposals scored against the criteria and they now have the opportunity to improve their proposals by submitting their final tender proposals prior to the Christmas break.

The procurement process for a contract like this takes a long time and the first national lockdown delayed the process, by a few months. The resulting delay means that we will not be in a position to select a preferred contractor until after Christmas.

When will a preferred provider be selected?

A preferred provider will be selected in early 2021, hopefully around February. If officers are in a position to appoint early next year, then this will allow sufficient time for handover so that there is little or no disruption for customers. If District Executive want to ratify the final decision before appointment is made, then based on the normal cycle of reporting, we would not be able to take a report to District Executive before March unless a special meeting was convened. This would not allow sufficient time for a transfer from one operator to another before April 2021.

What happens once a preferred provider is selected?

A management contract will be completed and we will work with our current provider to transition over to the new provider.  The new operator will also start working with the Council to help influence the final fit out of the new Chard centre. We have enjoyed a positive partnership with LED Leisure over the term of the existing contracts and they have stated that they will work proactively with the Council and new operator to ensure a smooth handover.

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