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East Northamptonshire District Council: Leisure services options appraisal and procurement

In 2015 the Council produced a Leisure Strategy to inform the forthcoming procurement of its three leisure facilities.

In 2015 the Council produced a Leisure Strategy to inform the forthcoming procurement of its three leisure facilities.

The strategy identified significant gaps in the reach of the current service and as a result the Council decided to re-introduce a sport and physical outreach service as part of the procurement.

The Council developed priority outcomes for the services and a suite of performance indicators that measure the effectiveness of the service going forward. Elected Members were engaged through an Issues Debate which resulted in full political support for the Leisure Strategy and supporting Procurement Strategy.

The challenge:

The Council had to contend with a challenging timeframe (nine months) within which to procure a partner operator, who would be able to deliver:

  1. a new sport and physical outreach service
  2. a significant increase in physical activity participation in the district
  3. an improved revenue position for the Council.

The solution:

Through development of a clear Procurement Strategy, a bespoke procurement process was designed to find the most suitable partner for the council, leading to receipt of four strong bids.

Following bid evaluation, the appointed bidder invested £1.8million into sport and physical activity outreach services throughout the life of the contract. The bidder also invested in a number of facility improvements, including the re-introduction of flumes at the Splash Leisure Pool in Rushden.

The impact: 

The procurement resulted in a substantially improved financial position for the Council, prior to the procurement the services were running at a cost to the Council of circa £250,000 per annum, under the new contract the operator will pay the Council £100,000 per year to run the contact.

There is a total yield savings of over £3.5million over the life of the contract, which commenced in April 2017.

Lessons learned:

Through well planned and bespoke procurement strategy and processes, despite truncated timelines councils can deliver sustainable and successful services through partnership with operators.

A clear vision with strategic objectives, as well as clarity over capital investment (if any) will allow a local authority to successfully focus a procurement exercise to best deliver leisure services to its communities.


Julia Smith, Chief Executive Blaby District Council (formerly Community Services Manager, East Northamptonshire District Council), [email protected]