Council to support Freedom Leisure amidst rising energy costs

Malvern Hills District Council (MHDC) will support Freedom Leisure to keep centres running amidst rising energy costs.

Last night (25 October), the Executive Committee agreed to accept a reduction in their management fee from Freedom Leisure this year and next year.

Since April 2015, MHDC has had a 15-year contract with Freedom Leisure to operate the Malvern Splash, Sport Dyson Perrins, and Sport Martley leisure centres, within the Malvern Hills District.

Freedom Leisure is a not-for-profit leisure trust, and the contract is built on a partnership arrangement approach, with the council in normal operating circumstances receiving an annual management fee.

Leisure providers are currently being affected by the rise in energy costs due to high energy demands, especially for facilities with swimming pools.

Freedom Leisure has introduced a series of operational changes to reduce energy consumption and are further reviewing their operating costs across the trust to make savings where possible. Further work is being undertaken by the council to evaluate additional energy saving measures.

As part of the council's support for leisure services, during the pandemic plans were accelerated to deliver a £2million refurbishment of Malvern Splash, improving the changing rooms and pool hall, modernising the pool plant, and delivering environmental measures.

The refurbishment has been a major success, resulting in significant increases in participation and income across all water-based activities. Freedom Leisure is also delivering a £200,000 refurbishment of the fitness suite at the Malvern Splash, which is set to be finished this November.

Cllr Tom Wells, Portfolio Holder for Community Services at Malvern Hills District Council, said: "Leisure centres were one of the industries that were hit the hardest during the Covid-19 pandemic and now we are in an energy crisis, they are being hit once again. Leisure centres are valued extensively by our residents, and they play a critical role in helping not only the physical health of our communities, but also their overall wellbeing. We are pleased to be supporting Freedom Leisure to help them continue to run our centres during this difficult time".

Ivan Horsfall Turner, CEO of Freedom Leisure, said: "Public sector leisure is one of the most exposed sectors because energy costs are such a large proportion of overall costs, particularly facilities with swimming pools. At Freedom Leisure we are experiencing a three-fold increase in our annual energy bill despite the recent government announcement of a temporary cap. As a not-for-profit trust that reinvests all surpluses back into local communities, we welcome the support and strong partnership working with Malvern Hills District Council".

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