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Healthy future in line for Swansea's leisure centres

Leisure centres across Swansea are on the brink of a bright new future.

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From Monday, October 1, six key community facilities and the LC will be operated by respected not-for-profit trust Freedom Leisure.

A £5m investment programme is planned and existing services, prices, opening hours, membership options and phone numbers will remain for the foreseeable future.

Freedom Leisure is taking over the management of the LC from Bay Leisure. The operation of the other sports and leisure centres - Bishopston, Cefn Hengoed, Elba, Morriston, Penlan and Penyrheol - is being transferred from Swansea Council.

Sites will remain accessible to communities, schools, groups and individuals. 

Robert Francis-Davies, the council's cabinet member for investment, regeneration and tourism, said: "This is an exciting time for Swansea's leisure centres and for the communities they serve.

"Our new partnership with Freedom Leisure - a well-established and experienced not-for-profit organisation - will mean a secure future for the facilities and new opportunities for the many thousands of people who use them.

"The facilities will remain council venues and council services - and the same friendly staff will continue to greet customers this Monday morning and beyond.

"Freedom Leisure will deliver the services for our customers, on our behalf; our partnership will ensure they give the people of Swansea what they want and need. Freedom Leisure intends to deliver the best outcomes for us all and will plough surplus funds back into the business.

"We will be working together to give the people of Swansea the best leisure offer we can now and in the future." 

Ivan Horsfall-Turner, managing director of Freedom Leisure, said: "We are delighted to have been selected as Swansea Council's leisure partner. We hope that our operational expertise coupled with a localised approach means that the services will go from strength to strength in support of the objectives we share with the council - a healthy, active Swansea."

Freedom Leisure regional director Jeremy Rowe said: "We cannot wait to commence the management of these seven wonderful facilities in Swansea. This is a 20-year partnership with a huge amount of investment which we hope demonstrates Freedom Leisure's genuine commitment to providing, quality, affordable and accessible sport and leisure opportunities for the people of Swansea." 

Swansea's leisure centres attract more than 2.1 million visitors a year. They offer high-quality attractions including swimming pools, fitness classes and programmes, gyms, sports clubs, children's activities and squash courts.

The decision to create the partnership with Freedom Leisure was the culmination of a three-year commissioning review of council-operated leisure services. Over the course of the review the council considered a number of options. During the process there was on-going consultation with staff, unions, customers and interested organisations. At the same time, the LC contract was due for renewal.

Freedom Leisure was selected through a rigorous competitive tender process and has agreed a 20-year partnership with the council.

Freedom Leisure has a proven track record of working for other local authorities, including Powys County Council and Wrexham County Borough Council.

Over the past few weeks, leisure centre staff across Swansea have been kept fully informed of what is happening. Schools attached to leisure centres will maintain access to them unchanged and free of charge. 

Cllr Francis-Davies said: "Austerity has hit us hard and this is one of the big decisions we have made to help is meet the challenge.

"Freedom Leisure has the ability to deliver leisure services effectively and sustainably; it would have taken us a lot longer to create a new model that would do the same - and that would have created unnecessary risk for the services.

"We've never wanted to simply close down our leisure centres - or privatise them - when there are much better options available to safeguard staff jobs and enhance services for future generations.

"We will pay Freedom Leisure a fee for operating our services - and over the duration of the contract term this will be significantly less than it would costs us to run the venues.

"The people of Swansea can look forward to exciting times at their leisure and sports facilities with a programme of investment in services and facilities."

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