Local leisure centres improve financial performace, despite austerity
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Local leisure centres improve financial performace, despite austerity

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Local authority leisure centres, particularly those which are trust operated, are seeing remarkable improvements in financial efficiency, according to an annual report from Sport England’s National Benchmarking Service.

However, while the sector is doing well at attracting 20 to 59-year-old women and ethnic minorities, it is failing to increase participation among the lowest socio-economic groups, as well as people over 60, disabled people under 60 and 11 to 19-year-olds.

Martyn Allison, chair of Sport England’s quality scheme Quest, which is aligned to NBS, said given the austerity climate the sector is facing, the financial achievement should be celebrated. However, he did point out that financial performance should not be at the expense of increasing participation in hard to reach groups.

“Those sections of the community most likely to benefit from increased physical activity – namely children and young people, older people and poorer people – must not be squeezed out by middle-aged, middle-class and mid-to-high income people who are better able to maintain their engagement and access membership schemes,” he said. “Instead the industry must work together to find ways to use the commercial returns it is now seeing to better achieve social outcomes, which in turn will build a stronger argument for the continuation of investment.”

Delivered by Leisure-net Solutions, in partnership with the Sport Industry Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University, the 2014 NBS report is based on data from 116 leisure centres and takes in 54 KPIS relating to access, financial performance, throughput, customer satisfaction and a Net Promoter Score.

The report revealed that even the least successful commercial contractors and trusts out-performed the best in-house operators. While the top performing 25 per cent of trust-managed facilities saw an average surplus of £52,845, and those managed by commercial contractors saw a surplus of £360,344, all of which is reinvested.

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Local authority leisure centres, particularly those which are trust operated, are seeing remarkable improvements in financial efficiency, according to an annual report from Sport England’s National Benchmarking Service.
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