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Swansea Council is set to begin a 20-year partnership with a not-for-profit trust to run its leisure centres in the city.

Freedom Leisure, a trust which already manages leisure centres on behalf of Powys and Wrexham councils, is set to take over management of council-owned leisure centres in the city on October 1.

Woman using machine in gym

The trust, which ploughs surplus funds back into the business, is set to invest millions of pounds in upgrading facilities and equipment over the contract term as part of the partnership.

Council staff who transfer to Freedom Leisure will have their terms, conditions and pensions protected. As part of the arrangements Freedom Leisure will take over management of the LC and all of the council's Active Swansea leisure centres.

Robert Francis-Davies, Cabinet Member for Innovation, Regeneration and Tourism, said the council is meeting Freedom Leisure this week to begin discussions about hand-over arrangements.

He said: "We are really looking forward to working with Freedom Leisure over the coming years. They've got great experience of working with councils across England and Wales to make the most of local leisure services.

"Freedom Leisure have an excellent track record in improving facilities, boosting usage and offering great staff development. By working in partnership with them, we know our leisure centres will be in good hands for the next two decades."

Apart from new investment in facilities, the partnership arrangement also means prices will be kept down, the offering improved and the council will have control over opening hours as well.

Cllr Francis-Davies said: "Like all other councils we are seeing reducing budgets due to the UK government's austerity agenda. Our leisure centres need investment in buildings and facilities.

"But, despite this, we've never wanted to simply close them down or privatise them when there are much better options available to safeguard staff jobs and enhance services for future generations.

"Freedom Leisure's proposal was very impressive and clearly the pick of a very competitive group of bidders."

Ivan Horsfall-Turner, Managing Director for Freedom Leisure, said: "We are delighted to have been selected as Swansea Council's partner. We're really looking forward to working with the existing workforce and supporting them to build upon the current high quality services and facilities.

"We hope that our operational expertise, coupled with this local approach, will mean that the services will go from strength-to-strength in support of the objectives we share with the council."

He said meetings will also take place in the coming weeks and throughout the process with staff members who are affected by the decision, to make sure everyone is kept fully informed of what is happening.

The decision to create the partnership was the culmination of a three-year commissioning review of council-operated leisure services. It considered the future management of the entire leisure services portfolio including the Grand Theatre, Brangwyn Hall, Plantasia, outdoor attractions and leisure centres.

Over the course of the review there was on-going consultation with staff, unions, customers, schools and outside organisations. At key points along the way it was agreed to keep some of the services in-house.

Cllr Francis-Davies said: "Over the last three years we've been open and honest about the challenges we face and the options put before us. Every step of the way we've listened to issues raised by our staff and others and sought to address their fears."

Under the partnership schools attached to leisure centres would maintain access to them unchanged and free of charge.

Discussions with the company offered the contract to run Plantasia are ongoing.


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