Rubicon Leisure & what it means
Rubicon Leisure Limited is Redditch Borough Council's specialist leisure company, which runs the Redditch Palace Theatre, the Abbey Stadium, Pitcheroak Golf Course, Forge Mill Needle Museum and Bordesley Abbey, as well as some of the town’s community centres.
Here's some information, including a link through to the actual business plan, service specification, and answers to some of the most-asked questions from its launch that was in December 2018.
Why a company?
Rubicon Leisure is what’s known as a Local Authority Trading Company, or LATC for short. It’s a special kind of limited company that’s owned by the council and has its business plan set by the council, but that can act like a private company in certain ways.
It was created after a process that saw the council consider options for alternative, more sustainable delivery methods for its leisure services. The goal is to ensure them a bright future against a backdrop of Town Hall budget pressures.
As part of that, a local survey had shown public opinion to be against ‘privatisation’ and for retaining public ownership of the town’s assets and service delivery - which is what the council ultimately settled on. As such Rubicon Leisure is a specialist, dedicated leisure company that will continue to provide local residents, via elected councillors, a say in how local leisure services are run.
Rubicon Leisure’s business plan, including service levels and specifications, investment proposals, how its management and governance will actually work, and so on, were approved by the council and you can see those details in the public reports published as part of the council’s decision making process.
Rubicon Leisure will deliver services in line with the council’s strategic purposes, underpinned by a set of service specifications designed by the council. This includes guarantees to help protect user agreements over matters such as opening hours, site availability, and price structures. It is required to conduct most of its business on behalf of the council, and it has some room to provide extra services. Its business plan each year will be approved by the council.
Its governance will be via a board of directors including four non-executive directors that will now recruited from the community, and councillors appointed by the borough council as sole shareholders to influence its strategic direction.
Any financial surpluses it generates may only be used to either invest in leisure services, or to reduce the overall cost of the services to the council, or a combination of both.
The council is continuing to provide many leisure services directly, including parks, play areas, allotments, events, and sports and arts development services, which will work closely with Rubicon Leisure.
The look and feel of services run by Rubicon Leisure will evolve over time, as the new company decides how it wants to operate. And of course the whole point of starting Rubicon Leisure is to enable those services, run out of the council’s facilities like the Abbey Stadium, to grow and improve. The new company’s strapline is ‘unlocking leisure’.
The company has its own brand, website and social media presence, separate to the council, and has launched a new era of leisure services across Redditch.
Quick Questions and Answers
- Will there be disabled gym memberships?
- Yes. Rubicon Leisure operates the council's Leisure Concessionary Policy, in the same way as the council did: so to qualify for free disabled gym membership the applicant will be required to purchase an Active Redditch Card and be in receipt of the qualifying benefits.
- Will children's swimming still be free?
- Yes. As above, Rubicon Leisure operates the council's Leisure Concessionary Policy, in the same way as the council did: so in order to qualify for free swimming for 5 to 16 year olds the applicant will be required to prove they live in Redditch and are aged between 5 to 16 years.
- Will there be over 60s discounts?
- Yes. The same pricing scheme applies as before, so residents over 60 in receipt of Pension Credit can receive a discount off some activities provided.
- Who are the shareholders?
- The council. The shareholder board is made up of five elected council members and makes the key decisions on the running of the company as advised by a board of non-executive directors.
- Are there any plans to start charging for parking?
- No. Any such decisions in the future would have to be endorsed through the shareholder board.
- Will it be sold to the private sector?
- The council chose not to outsource its facilities to the private sector, choosing instead to set up Rubicon Leisure as a council-owned company. The council has stated it is keen to protect its leisure assets, and support Rubicon Leisure to help achieve a range of social objectives that benefit Redditch residents. This model is intended to help the council, through Rubicon Leisure, provide these services for years to come.
- What is happening to the land, buildings and other assets?
- They council has retained ownership of all the assets. They do not belong to Rubicon Leisure.
- Are there plans to raise prices?
- Prices have always been reviewed annually. Rubicon Leisure will not be able to raise prices by more than 5% without the approval of the council.
- Are there plans to change opening hours or bookings?
- A selection of key bookings (e.g. school swimming) are guaranteed in Rubicon Leisure’s service specification, with all other bookings continuing to be subject to standard hire agreements. The idea is to increase the number of people and groups using the facilities.