Sandwell Council terminates partnership with leisure centre operators

Following an extended period of discussions, Sandwell Council has taken the decision to seek an alternative arrangement for the continued operation of nine leisure centres currently run by Sandwell Leisure Trust.

The services in Sandwell have been operated by the Trust, a registered Charity and not for profit organisation, since 2004. However, the pandemic has presented unprecedented economic challenges for all sectors, including local authorities and leisure, making the need for best value all the more important.

The Council says it needs to 'ensure best value for residents, particularly during this difficult economic time, and SLT faces unprecedented challenges in returning to pre-pandemic income levels'. Sandwell Council’s Cabinet Member for Tourism and Culture, Councillor Danny Millard said:

“This move will secure the long-term future of the facilities and our services. We've been very clear that we need to protect these vital services for residents and the fantastic staff that work in our leisure centres.

"The Council would like to thank all of the staff for their brilliant work in ensuring the safe and successful running of our much-loved facilities. We know that this may cause some concern to our colleagues but please rest assured we will do everything we possibly can to ensure a smooth transition for staff. These are difficult times for all of us and this is not a position we expected to be in.

“However, we will now look forward and very quickly, over the coming weeks, make decisions on the immediate transition phase and the long-term delivery arrangement for our facilities. We are working very closely with the SLT management team to ensure we keep you updated in a timely and consistent way.

“We would also like to thank Sandwell Leisure Trust, the management team and board for all the effort that has been made over the last 18 years to develop and evolve leisure in Sandwell. It is unfortunate that this partnership is coming to end but we are grateful for where you have taken us and it is now time to look forward to ensure services continue to thrive."

SLT’s business plan including the financial support required from the Council do not meet the Council’s budget position and, despite working in partnership to find a way forward, the parties have been unable to do so.

Both parties will now work together to ensure a seamless transition over the coming months for staff and customers. Their shared priority is to safeguard jobs and to protect the continued provision of services for residents and communities. Lynda Bateman, chair of the board of trustees for SLT added:

"Last year was an extremely difficult year for businesses, including Sandwell Leisure Trust. The impact on the leisure sector has been significant, but we were pleased to re-open all Sandwell facilities and return all our frontline staff back to work.

"Sandwell Leisure Trust and Sandwell Council have been working together to determine the best way forward in these challenging times. The Council’s aspiration to move towards a zero subsidy to run its portfolio of facilities simply could not be met or jointly agreed through the business planning negotiations”.

The council have assured local residents that it will be business as usual at the affected leisure centres and they will remain open and services will continue to be delivered to customers.


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