Freedom Leisure joins UK campaign to protect public services

November 20 2018

The future of public leisure and culture services in the UK is receiving nationwide backing with the launch of Community Leisure UK.

The association of charitable trusts and social enterprises is focusing a national campaign on supporting the retention and development of public leisure and culture facilities and services, including those managed by Freedom Leisure, which operates around 100 public leisure and cultural facilities around the UK.

The trust model, which invests every penny generated in surplus back into community services and facilities, has proven successful across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. But funding pressures on local government, increasing demand for services, combined with procurement decisions based on cheapest cost, are creating a fragile landscape.  There is concern that much-needed public leisure services are being drawn into a ‘race to the bottom’.

The umbrella organisation for trusts, Community Leisure UK – formerly Sporta – is committed to supporting Freedom Leisure and all local partners in a vision to improve the physical and mental health and wellbeing of our communities, breaking down barriers to social inclusion and supporting all ages.

Disabled activities

We have a strong passion to develop our services to be the best they can be, and most importantly inclusive and supportive of all, and while it’s a challenge in the current economic climate, it’s one we’re committed to.

Ivan Horsfall-Turner, Managing Director of Freedom Leisure

Cate Atwater, Chief Executive of Community Leisure UK, explained: “The charitable trust model has helped to develop and protect our public services in tough economic times, ensuring every penny of income goes back into your community. Communities need local, public leisure services, delivered by those who put the needs of their locality first.

“As we hear on the news daily, many public services are now at breaking point. So, it’s a simple request now - if we want public leisure and cultural facilities and services to still be there in ten years, we need to enable local authorities, policy makers and community leisure trusts to protect and invest in those services. And it’s about more than financial investment - investment is about building a true, transparent and long-term partnership.”

Ivan Horsfall-Turner, Managing Director of Freedom Leisure stated: “We have a strong passion to develop our services to be the best they can be, and most importantly inclusive and supportive of all, and while it’s a challenge in the current economic climate, it’s one we’re committed to.

“With Community Leisure UK also working on our behalf, along with government, health, and other key partners all on board – together we can protect precious local community  services and ensure their future, as genuine, non-for-profit organisations is strong –  with the best interests of the people always at their heart.”

Basketball at a sports centre

Background notes

Community Leisure UK’s 112 members deliver over 3,700 services and facilities, employ over 67,000 staff, manage a combined turnover of £1.4bn and received 233m customer visits in 2017.

Community Leisure UK members deliver vital community services such as GP Referral exercise and books on prescription; a range of support to older people, disabled children and early interventions; social care support; long-term illness, mental health and walking programmes; internet access and support; apprenticeships and training; and a wealth of community sports participation programmes.

The model of trusts, according to a survey carried out by Winckworth Sherwood (Trusts for Big Society, 2010)

“...enable individuals and communities to participate”.  

 The model of the trust focuses on utilising cross-subsidy, in two ways:

  • cross-subsidy of services - more profit generating leisure activities will subsidise some health, community-based, library activities etc; and
  • cross-subsidy of individuals - where those that can afford to pay support those who need a subsidy, or those activities that need to be subsidised.