Magna Vitae is a specially created charitable trust which runs leisure, culture and health-related services on behalf of East Lindsey District Council. This case study forms part of the achieving efficiencies section as well as the different delivery models - social enterprises (trusts) section of our online Culture Hub.
Magna Vitae Trust for Leisure and Culture was created in 2015 and has provided an efficient means of safeguarding services for East Lindsey’s communities. The council had invested in culture, leisure and health in the preceding years, and its aspiration was to continue to offer high-quality provision to local residents. However, as non-essential services, there was significant risk of lower investment as a result of increasing funding pressures. In order to ‘future-proof’ these services as far as possible, the decision was made to separate them from the council and place them into a community-based external organisation.
Magna Vitae’s facilities comprise of four swimming pools, two multi-use games areas, four fitness suites, two sports halls, a pavilion, a recreation ground and a theatre. It also oversees East Lindsey’s culture and leisure events portfolio. This includes managing and developing local, national and international sports programmes such as bowls, cricket and volleyball; bringing cultural events to rural communities; and developing community health improvement programmes focusing on long-term conditions such as dementia and diabetes.
Impact of the project
Local residents benefit from the objectivity that a single-focus, community-based independent business brings to the area’s leisure, culture and health provision. Magna Vitae can focus fully on providing high-quality experiences to local people, encouraging them to ‘live a great life’. The council benefits from having a trusted partner to develop and deliver a range of provision according to its strategic objectives.
When the separation was being prepared, a twin-track approach to decision-making was established. This involved the council’s Executive Board and a separate Scrutiny Committee made up of councillors with an active interest in the project. This committee examined the proposals in detail and reported to the Executive and Full Council on its recommendations. Magna Vitae’s Board of Trustees includes two councillors nominated by the council to ensure the partners are working in the same direction.
Indicative efficiency savings at the time of the transfer equated to a reduction in revenue costs from around £3 million to around £2 million annually, this to be achieved over the first five years. Delivery of services through Magna Vitae has largely achieved that. With the continuing pressure on local government funding, Magna Vitae will continue to work closely with the council to minimise the financial support needed long-term as far as possible, for example through ‘invest to save’ projects.
Looking to the future
In the early phases, it was important to strike a balance between taking enough risks to make headway but not to jeopardise initial company stabilisation and relationships with funding bodies. Now, as a more established organisation, opportunities to drive growth are becoming more readily available. Magna Vitae has gained national and local recognition and is in a stronger position to act upon opportunities that show potential. It is looking forward to working with a range of partners and funding bodies to develop and deliver health, culture and leisure opportunities for local social benefit.
Key learning points
- Ensuring that the new company began on a solid financial basis, by setting realistic and safe financial objectives in the early years, has positioned it well to ensure longer-term success. Targeting too great an efficiency saving from year one would have jeopardised this stability. This was achieved by adopting a ‘challenging but safe’ three-year funding and management agreement.
- Twin-tracking the decision process within the council helped to ensure that all councillors were fully informed. The decision was taken in stages: first, the decision to progress the project to transfer services to a charitable trust; secondly, the constitution and set-up of the trust was agreed; and finally the details of the transfer were agreed.
For further information contact James Brindle, Director of Development & Partnerships, Magna Vitae: [email protected].
This case study has been developed in conjunction with Arts Council England