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New operator for South Somerset District Council’s leisure centres unveiled as Freedom Leisure

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Not for profit trust Freedom Leisure, is set to take over the operation and management of South Somerset District Council’s leisure centres in Yeovil, Chard and Wincanton after a lengthy tendering process came to an end and a preferred bidder selected.

The current contract with LED Community Leisure comes to an end in April 2021 and work has been ongoing for some time now to ensure a new operator will be in place ready to commence a new 15 year contract with SSDC.

Freedom Leisure takes on the management of facilities at Goldenstones and Westlands Sports and Fitness Centre in Yeovil, as well as Wincanton Community Sports Centre and the superb new facilities currently being built at the Boden Mill site in Chard as part of the Chard Regeneration programme.

Councillor Mike Best, South Somerset District Council’s portfolio for health and wellbeing, said: “Like the previous operator, Freedom Leisure are a not-for-profit leisure trust whereby all surplus income is reinvested in its facilities to ensure it stays in tip-top shape and ahead of the game in terms of the equipment and provisions it provides.

“Their proposed community delivery programme is impressive and in close alignment to the Council’s own corporate objectives. This edged them ahead of the other competitors in the selection process and I know our Officers are looking forward to working with the new management team at Freedom Leisure to provide the best services to the local community  and customers of our facilities here in South Somerset.

“South Somerset District Council would like to take this opportunity to publically thank LED Community Leisure for their continued support and delivery of leisure provisions in South Somerset during the successful partnership over the last 10 years.

Freedom Leisure already manage a large number of facilities, including a new contract recently won in January 2021 to operate the New Forest’s five leisure centres. This takes their current facilities management to 106 facilities for 24 council partners, schools and academies.

Freedom Leisure’s Managing Director Ivan Horsfall Turner said: “We were delighted to hear that Freedom Leisure had been chosen to manage the South Somerset leisure centres including the brand new centre in Chard. We look forward to working closely with the Council and the existing leisure centre teams to improve and enhance the leisure service and facilities already being delivered for the communities in South Somerset.”

I’m a current member of LED Community Leisure, what do I need to do?

If like many you’re looking forward to getting back to using community facilities such as the gym and swimming pool and you are a current member of LED Community Leisure, rest assured that you will not need to do anything – your membership will automatically transfer to the new operator. But for peace of mind, LED Community Leisure will be in contact with its members about the transfer in due course.

My club or group uses LED Community Leisure facilities, what do we need to do?

You can expect to be able to continue to use the facilities under the new operator as before but Freedom Leisure will be in touch to provide reassurance as soon as they practically can.

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

Following a review of Sport England guidance and careful consideration of the management options available, Members decided to instruct officers to seek tenders for a new single contract for all of its leisure centres.

LED Community Leisure took the decision not to bid for the new contract in the current climate but remained committed to providing good quality services for customers for the remainder of their term.

How has the current procurement process been carried out?

The Council opted for a procurement process that included dialogue with potential operators in order to find the best delivery solution – and find 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 had feedback on how their initial proposals scored against the criteria and they submitted final tenders by Christmas. The procurement process for a contract like this takes a long time and the first national lockdown delayed the process, by a few months.

LED Community Leisure and Freedom Leisure are now working together to ensure a smooth transfer for customers when centres are allowed to reopen again once the national lockdown has ended. Subject to national COVID-19 restrictions, it is hoped that all centres will reopen in April or as soon as possible in line with Government guidelines.

Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the Council expects to share some risk for the delivery of the facilities over the next two years.

Thank you. You response is appreciated.

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