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Council names new leisure partner

SUNDERLAND City Council has named Sports and Leisure Management (SLM) as its new leisure partner.

The council announced last year that it was seeking a joint venture partner to run its sports and leisure facilities. Its decision to appoint SLM, which operates under the Everyone Active brand, follows a 15 month dialogue with prospective joint venture partners.

SLM is the UK’s longest established leisure contractor, with more than 25 years experience of managing local authority leisure contracts. It currently manages 102 facilities across the country in partnership with 33 local authorities.

Sunderland City Council’s plans are unique in that they will see it forming an equal partnership with SLM, with each having a 50 per cent stake in the joint venture.

While SLM will be responsible for day to day leisure centre operations, decisions of a more strategic nature will be carried out at Joint Venture level, with the City Council retaining the final say in relation to certain significant issues.

The new partnership is also being tasked with encouraging more people in the city to take part in physical activity, sport and leisure more often.

This will build on work already underway through the city’s Active Sunderland approach which works with individuals, schools, communities and sports clubs creating, enabling and providing opportunities for people to be active and to increase their activity levels.

Since 2004, the council and its partners have invested more than £60m in new and replacement sport and leisure facilities. This level of investment, which is unprecedented in the region, is helping improve the health of people in the city by encouraging and supporting more participation in sport and physical activity.

A further £11.3m is being invested to replace Washington Leisure Centre, which is scheduled to open in late Spring. This will complete the renewal of the city’s leisure facilities.

Councillor John Kelly, Sunderland City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Public Health, Wellness and Culture, said: “We’re very much looking forward to working with Sports and Leisure Management as our new joint venture partner. They’ve got a proven track record in working with local authorities and they share our commitment to increasing levels of activity across the city.

“This partnership will not only protect our £60m investment in the city’s leisure facilities but ensure further investment in our facilities and the enhancement and expansion of services. Setting up a joint venture company also means that we retain an ongoing interest in our fantastic leisure facilities.

“Most importantly it will help us increase activity levels across the city by complementing the excellent work already underway through Active Sunderland, at the same time as achieving the savings we need to make in the long term.

“Raising activity levels brings with it a whole host of advantages in terms of improving people’s health and wellbeing and the educational and economic benefits that go with it. So we see this as a real opportunity to make a positive difference to people’s lives.”
David Bibby, Managing Director for SLM, commented, “We are delighted to be a part of this exciting new partnership with Sunderland City Council and to be expanding our presence within the north of England.”
“We remain committed to delivering the highest standard of facilities at all of our centres and we look forward to helping to increase activity participation from local communities in Sunderland.”