The Committee considered the report presented by the Health Improvement & Community Relations Manager which sought to provide Members with an update of Active4Today (the Company) for the period 12 April to 31 October 2021 following the sustained impact of Covid on the Company’s operations.
It was noted that the business focus of A4T was on rebuilding the membership base to what it was pre-pandemic and that continued to be the priority. Good progress had been made as outlined in the Appendix A to the report, which set out the performance of A4T and its recovery activities over the period 12 April to 31 October 2021.
Given the unprecedented impacts of the virus and the disruption caused to the leisure offer the current performance indicators as outlined in Appendix B to the report showed the comparison of current data against the corresponding period in October 2019 (pre-pandemic) and October 2020 in order to demonstrate the current position in respect of memberships and user figures. In addition to centre based activities, the Sports Development Team had started to re-engage with community partners such as schools, health and sporting organisations and was making good progress in terms of assisting in the regeneration of projects and activities to encourage wider participation in physical activity and sport and further details were provided in Appendix C to the report.
The report highlighted the membership position since the centres re-opened in April 2021 and showed a positive uplift in all areas of membership generally. In addition Southwell Leisure Centre memberships were now included in the data following the successful transfer of its management function to A4T with effect from 1 October 2021. As at 31 October 2021 of the 9,608 live members currently paying a direct debit membership, there were approximately 112 who had frozen their memberships for either medical reasons or financial reasons in line with the Freeze Policy.
On the current live membership base of A4T, it was now operating at 80% of live members against pre-Covid numbers primarily due to its efforts to maintain its relationship with members which had proved to be a successful strategy. After reviewing national industry performance and data available from Sport England and UKActive, the membership nationally was averaging around 55%, which was significantly lower than the position with A4T. Although users were down as expected the improving membership base and a gradual return to business as usual across all aspects of the leisure offer participation rates were growing and during the period 12 April to 31 October 2021, user visits across all sites reached 468,237 which was encouraging with notable examples such as the increase in users and memberships at the Dukeries following the opening of the new swimming pool.
The report provided the current income and expenditure financial summary of the Company and showed the original, revised and profiled budgeted income and expenditure up to period 7 October, set against actual income and expenditure for the same period.
The budget would be subject to further revisions throughout the year, as a result of the lower than expected starting position of the membership. This was significant for A4T, as the budget for 2021 – 2022 was based on a higher membership and income target starting point. However, conversely expenditure would also continue to be revised as savings (especially in salaries) work through the finance. However, currently the forecast to year end was looking more favourable and it was estimated that the anticipated deficit of £840K would reduce by £98K.
At the time of transfer Southwell Leisure Centre’s original forecasted budget for the 2021-2022 financial year had estimated a deficit at year end of approximately £230k. However, having revised the current budget and reviewed all staffing, programming and membership income, A4T had forecasted a new budget position, which now showed a deficit of circa £125k, an estimated saving over the original budget of approximately £105k. Over the next several weeks the remaining processes undertaken at Southwell would be investigated and integrated into A4T, with the revised budget position being used to develop a budget for the site, in readiness for the 2022-2023 financial year.
As part of the Company’s work to rebuild its operations and membership base to levels which it experienced pre-Covid, the Company had successfully launched the new swimming pool at the Dukeries Leisure Centre. Since the opening of the facility, memberships for both adults and children had increased steadily and sessions included swimming lessons, laned swimming, parent and toddler sessions and fun swims with an inflatable for the younger swimmers of the community.
A Member commented on the closure of LA Fitness and whether the Council’s leisure facilities could be advertised more as a few members of the public had commented on the limited service the leisure centres provided for them.
The Managing Director Active4Today confirmed that forty of the LA Fitness (Sports Direct) customers had signed over to Active4Today. A corporate deal had also been achieved by Active4Today with some Sports Direct customers where this was appropriate and consistent with A4T’s current scheme.
A Member asked whether people living in social housing were being encouraged to use the leisure facilities. The Managing Director confirmed that primary users had been actively targeted first. Various targets were being reviewed to engage with customers that were less likely to engage in fitness. Targeted work was being undertaken in Ollerton and concessionary prices were being offered. Bursaries were also being made available for young people across the district.
The local Ward Member for Ollerton commented on the pool at Ollerton being a wonderful asset and asked whether there was anything that could be done to encourage customers to become members rather than paying for one off use of the pool. The Managing Director confirmed that customers were encouraged to pre-book swimming, in order to ensure capacity levels and an enjoyable experience. 95% of customers were buying membership on-line, a call centre had also been developed which was able to deal with general queries.
The Committee was also informed of the Changing Places funding scheme that had been pursued for the Dukeries, which offered suitably accessible changing facilities and specialist equipment for severely disabled people. The space configuration available at the Dukeries leisure centre was not to the required standard to secure MHCLG grant funding for the CPT scheme, however that space was being designed to accommodate some equipment. A report regarding the Changing Places proposals and associated costs would be brought to a future meeting of the Committee. A Member commented that funding may be available through Nottinghamshire County Council if there was a need for adults with learning difficulties, with joint funding through Social Care.
(a) the Active4Today progress report for year to date be noted;
(b) the ongoing impacts of Covid on the Company’s performance be closely monitored and proposals to support the Company through the pandemic be brought to future meetings of the Committee; and
(c) the proposed Key Performance Indicators for Membership and Usage for year to date 2021/22 (Appendix B) be noted.