Information: Council’s leisure management contract

Thursday 29th July 2021

Information on the Council’s decision not to extend its leisure management contract with Northern Community Leisure Trust

29 July 2021

At a meeting of Councillors on Wednesday 28 July, Ards and North Down Borough Council determined to take the decision to allow its contract with Northern Community Leisure Trust (NCLT) to expire at the 10-year point, and not to avail of any extension opportunity**.  This means that all the facilities/ services that have been operated by NCLT on behalf of the Council over the past 8 years will return to direct Council management and operation on 31 March 2023. 

The Council has been working with NCLT and an external leisure consultant over the past year to inform this decision.  A range of financial, operational, performance and customer service issues were considered.  The cost difference between the two methods of operation (NCLT or a return to Council management) was marginal, therefore the overriding considerations in favour of a return to Council operation were not financial but the potential to:

  • Establish, through a single operator, one management structure to deliver a single strategic approach and efficiencies across all Council leisure facilities.
  • Introduce consistent policies and standards across all Council leisure facilities.
  • Offer greater choice and flexibility to customers through the development of membership packages that allow access to any, and all, Council leisure facilities (including classes)
  • Enable investment plans to be progressed that will ensure Council leisure facilities continue to complement each another.   

The change of management does not come into effect for 20 months and NCLT customers will be fully updated on any impacts closer to the handover date – however we are committed to ensuring the process is as smooth as possible. 

In relation to NCLT employees, TUPE (which stands for the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations) will apply and will protect employees by transferring them to the new employer at no detriment.

This decision in no way reflects any dissatisfaction with the operations of the former North Down Borough Council facilities.  The Council would like to put on record its thanks to the Board of NCLT, under the chairmanship of John Young, and all the staff for the very successful and productive relationship that we have enjoyed over the past eight years; especially with regards to the management of Bangor Aurora Aquatic and Leisure Complex – which was a new and unique leisure offering when it opened its doors in 2013. 

We look forward to being able to offer ratepayers a consistency of experience at all our leisure facilities, including multi-facility memberships and access schemes, in the future.   

Notes:

The main facilities that will return to Council management include:

  • Bangor Aurora Aquatic and Leisure Complex
  • Bangor Sportsplex
  • Queen’s Leisure Complex, Holywood
  • Sports grounds/ pitches across the northern part of the Borough
  • Sport development services in the northern part of the Borough

The existing contract with NCLT to run these leisure facilities was set up in 2013.  It was to run for 10 years, with the potential for a further extension of 5 years.  The contract required Ards and North Down Borough Council to review the arrangements and decide whether to avail of the contract extension before 30 September 2021 (at least 18 months before the original 10-year contract would run out).    

** This determination of the meeting of Councillors is subject to a ‘call in standstill period’, which runs until Thursday 5 August.