VISITOR numbers, income and memberships at the council’s 17 leisure and recreation facilities throughout the borough have increased since they were taken over by Brio Leisure in May 2011.
Members of Cheshire West and Chester Council’s (CWaC) executive heard that despite the recession, and reduced spending power, visitors had increased by 15,000 to 2.4m and income from £7.2m to £7.350m, in the first three years.
Cllr Stuart Parker, executive member, culture and economy, also revealed that since the start of the community interest company’s management contract, user memberships had risen to 9,000 – an increase of 27 per cent.
He told members that Brio – a wholly owned subsidiary of the council – has established itself as a competent organisation with a track record of delivery against the council’s key objectives.
“Competent professional management of the leisure assets and services delivered by Brio are a critical success factor,” said Cllr Parker.
“Despite some limited service disruption caused by plant failures at some older sites, the quality of service delivery has been consistently high with positive feedback from users and partner organisations.”
Through close engagement with council schemes, Brio has developed activities and programmes closely aligned to the authority’s priorities including a range of health opportunities including GP referrals, weight loss and childrens’ healthy eating.
‘Altogether Better’ initiatives supported families and older people and equality promotion through extended opportunities for disabled people, ethnic community swimming and support for Chester Pride.
Members agreed in principle to offer a new 10 to 15 year contract for Brio but only after consideration by Corporate Scrutiny and a further report to the Executive in the autumn.
Opposition leader Cllr Justin Madders welcomed the scrutiny process before final contract was issued.
“Certainly, if you are talking 10-15 years, it’s important we get it right,” he told members.
“The decision we are making here involves the vehicle that is going to drive forward the health and wellbeing of the borough.”
While Cllr Parker described a comprehensive list of achievements, the Opposition Leader had some areas of concern in terms of performance.
Referring to the report before the executive, he said: “If you look for example at the section on deprived communities, that suggests there has only been two initiatives – the last of which was in summer 2012.
“I’m sure Brio have done more than that but certainly that is something I’d like to see more of in the future.”
Brio chairman Cllr Bob Crompton told members: “Improving health and wellbeing is a global problem. Working together with agencies like Sport England and Public Health, we can be part of the local solution.
“There is a vital role for culture and leisure to play in improving the health and wellbeing of local communities and the introduction of Public Health into local government gives us a great opportunity to forge a partnership to ensure their initiatives can be progresses through our facilities.”
Members also considered the options of transferring services back ‘in house’ or contracting out. However it was ruled that the former would not deliver the efficiencies available to a community interest company and outsourcing would take too long to introduce.