Leisure Centres to Re-open After Record Year is Scuppered

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At the end of the last calendar year, the 2019/20 financial year looked set to see local authority spend on leisure and sport services reach new heights. However, by the end of March, council spend in this normally growing market was back down to pre-2016/17 levels.

Several council reports picked up by Porge over recent months have outlined how local authorities have been providing financial support to not-for-profit trusts and private sector operators alike following the closure of leisure centres and indoor sports courts in mid-March. However, Porge’s Illuminator system, which aggregates and categorises the invoice data published by over 1100 public sector organisations, shows that the fall in the level of council spend in this market was well and truly underway by February:

Spend over last five FYs

The local authority leisure market has in recent years been led by two providers – Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) and Sports and Leisure Management Ltd (Everyone Active) - who between them have around a 30% share of the market. Like the wider council market, 2018/19 saw both organisations enjoy their strongest year since Illuminator’s records began and both had looked set to at least match this in 2019/20, however early 2020 saw council spend with both begin to fall away.

Illuminator currently shows spend by councils in this market to be down by around £30M in 2019/20 when compared to the previous financial year. However, with many centres operating through concession contracts whereby the operator is paid by keeping revenue generated by the centres, the true cost to the industry could be far higher and trade body ukactive recently warned that half of all public leisure facilities could close without more government support.

Porge has been helping councils to improve their supplier management and make better commissioning decisions for many years. Now, with COVID-19 continuing to present local authorities with all kinds of unprecedented challenges, Porge data is helping councils to ensure they are offering the correct support to their suppliers and local economies through new additional services from Oxygen Finance.

by Martin Holmes

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