Updated news for our volunteers, casual staff, contractors and freelancers across leisure services

You’re sure to be aware that we are in the process of creating a Local Authority Trading Company, or LATC, to operate some of our leisure services.

In our last update in March, councillors were giving the green light for a concrete business plan to be developed for their approval.

We now want to bring you an update on the progress of that business plan, the current timescales, and what it would all mean for you as a valued partner in providing leisure services in the borough.

The new company

Making the business plan for the new company, which will include service levels and specifications, how its management and governance would actually work, and so on, is under way.

Work on it was paused during May following the council elections and subsequent change of leadership, but it’s now due to be submitted to the council for their decision in September.

The new company would have a new name, address, contact details, bank details, website and social media, and so on. The look and feel would change, as it would not be ‘the council’.

It would be wholly owned by the council. It would run services including the Redditch Palace Theatre, the Abbey Stadium, Pitcheroak Golf Course, Forge Mill Needle Museum and Bordesley Abbey, and the community centres. The council would be able to include additional leisure and cultural services later if it wanted to.

Its governance would be via a board of directors including four non-executive directors recruited from the community, and councillors appointed by the borough council as sole shareholders to influence its strategic direction.

The way the company delivers services would be designed against a service specification, prepared and monitored by the council, to underpin and support delivery of the council’s strategic purposes. This would include guarantees over opening hours, site availability, price structures, and so on.

The company would be required to conduct most of its business on behalf of the council, with some room to provide extra services. And the company’s business plan would be approved by the council each year.

In the broadest terms it would be required by the council to help more people in Redditch get more active and involved more often, with key objectives of investing in services and growing participation and attendances.

Any surpluses it generated would be reinvested in providing enhanced leisure services, or used to reduce the overall cost of the services to the council, or a combination of both.

The approximate timeline would be:

  1. Council decides on business plan (September 2018)
  2. New company is formed
  3. Management is recruited
  4. Staff are recruited
  5. New company starts to deliver the services (December 2018).

How it would affect you

In all cases working relationships would no longer be with the council directly, but with the new company.

  • Casual staff: Opportunities to work for the company instead of the council would be available, and the company would discuss them with you in the lead up to the date of transfer.
  • Volunteers: As the company would continue to deliver the council’s strategic priorities, the contributions of volunteers would continue to help create a vibrant local scene of things to see, do and visit in Redditch. Furthermore the company would expect to grow and expand leisure and cultural services in Redditch beyond current levels, and so new opportunities to contribute may also emerge.
  • Contractors and freelance instructors: The company would contact you to discuss opportunities for working for it instead of for the council. Contracts and funding agreements that would straddle the date of change, December 1 2018, would move from the council to the company in a process called novation. Contracts expiring before this date will be reviewed.

The council’s strategy

Moving to a LATC model of service delivery is intended to maximise the benefit our leisure services provide to the community through efficient and effective management, to reinvest in the facilities from VAT and Business Rate efficiencies, and to improve services with any future retained surpluses.

The long-term aim is to improve customer satisfaction, participation, and responsiveness to the demands of our residents, and to help to safeguard the delivery of leisure facilities in Redditch by creating a sustainable ’not for profit’ enterprise that can continue to develop better services to meet the needs of the community.

It’s also to help to manage the reduction in public spending that the government continues to require councils to deliver. It would do this by reducing costs and increasing revenues in ways the council cannot. For example the company would be able to pay less tax than the council, apply for external grant funding, offer some exciting new activities that the council cannot provide, and react more quickly to capitalise on fast-changing leisure market conditions and the changing demands of the leisure-going public.

In this way the LATC would be a specialist, dedicated leisure company that continues to provide local residents, via elected councillors, a say in how local leisure services are run.

What’s next?

A project team, with input from a range of stakeholders, is currently drawing up the business plan for the company for the council to consider in September.

That business plan, except for the commercially confidential parts, will be made public before that September meeting alongside proposals on restructuring the council’s leisure and culture services that would not be transferring to the new company.

If that business plan is approved then the company would be formed and begin substantially to take shape, including appointing senior management, ahead of taking over delivery of the services from December 1.

John Godwin

Head of Leisure and Cultural Services, Redditch Borough Council