Decision Maker: Cabinet, Community Policy Development Group, Cabinet Member for Community & Leisure
Decision status: Implemented
Is Key decision?: Yes
Is subject to call in?: No
To agree to give the Cabinet member for
Community Wellbeing the delegated authority to approve the Leisure
The Cabinet had before it a report * from the Corporate Manager for Council Tax, Business Rate, Benefits, Corporate Recovery, Planning & Leisure informing it of proposals to change the Leisure fees and charges strategy.
The Community Policy Development Group had RECOMMENDED that the fees and charges proposed within the report be approved.
The contents of the report were outlined by the Cabinet Member for Community & Leisure. Following discussion and having returned to open session, the Cabinet:
RESOLVED that the strategy to change fees and charges as proposed in the report at sections 2.8.1 and 2.8.2 be approved.
(Proposed by Cllr D Wulff and seconded by Cllr S Keable)
Reason for the decision
There is a legal obligation to notify customers with direct debits of any changes to their payments with at least 10 day notice. As we are increasing these, for some customers, we will aim to give at least 2 weeks’ notice. The commercial nature of the industry and the cost of living crisis means that Mid Devon Leisure can be vulnerable to threats from; competition, substitutions and price sensitivity. It could also exclude certain priority groups the service is trying to encourage to use the facilities and get active, however the pricing strategy is trying to minimise the impact on these groups as much as possible. The service plans to ensure the marketing message around any price increases showcases the value attached to the service with the service’s unique selling points to ensure we continue to grow, and maintain, participation levels at mid Devon Leisure.
Following the decision made by the Cabinet, the Cabinet Member for Community & Leisure made the following statement:
“In looking at the leisure pricing, both the Community Policy Development Group and the Cabinet gave consideration to how we can encourage greater participation, and increased activity, amongst young people by giving access to the full facilities at an affordable rate. This is particularly important given the life-long health benefits early access to health, fitness and sports can provide. This is something that Mid Devon Leisure is uniquely positioned to deliver due to the high quality of its pools and courts, fitness equipment and instructors amongst its peers.
Inflation affects us all. Whilst funding the service to ensure it continues to deliver that high quality, we need to be confident we do not put barriers up that prevent low-income users from accessing these services, and we must ensure we don’t pass on the increasing costs of the service to those least able to afford it.
Mid Devon Leisure will continue to support those members of the community accessing means tested benefits via Concessionary discounting to pay and play fees and charges, in addition to discounted membership opportunities. And staff have already identified new services to offer that cater to younger people and help increase access to physical activity in fun and collaborative ways.
Additionally, we have also committed to making it easier for care leavers to access our leisure services by agreeing to offer care experienced young people (up to the age of 25) a leisure membership at an effective 100% discount rate.
We were the first district council in Devon to exempt care leavers from paying Council Tax, and this is the latest part of a wider package of support intended to provide care leavers with the best possible start in their adult lives.
It can feel like a cliché to say this, but our Mid Devon Leisure staff are our biggest asset. This is evidenced by the growth and market-leading quality of the services they design and deliver. For example, their outstanding learn-to-swim programmes and aquatics training reached second place in the Swimming Teacher Association awards just a few weeks ago. Our swimming pools are operating more effectively than our peers in both the public and private sector. I have no doubt this is largely down to the quality of our aquatic staff – and their passion to deliver for Mid Devon residents, as I have heard feedback to that effect.
But it is not just the aquatic services. Our fitness instructors, business managers, front-of-house, and support staff are all (without exception) passionate about Mid Devon Leisure and seeing our facilities thrive. Those are not my words – those are quoted from an independent report that recently evaluated every part of our leisure services.
By supporting the leisure pricing strategy, we can create stability that allows staff to innovate services further while remaining competitive and reflecting the cost-of-living challenges our community faces. The change in national VAT treatment for Council-run leisure services will allow us to absorb inflationary increases for general memberships, and hold down increases for Concessionary users. That is a significant reinvestment in our service users. Our proposed pricing is highly competitive and protects our ability to deliver new and innovative improvements to the way people across the district are able to access fitness, leisure and community sports.
This Council will this week start to work on an ambitious plan to develop these improvements, and I welcome any feedback or suggestions from anyone who is as passionate about increasing access to fitness and leisure as I am.”
Note: * Report previously circulated
Report author: Lee Chester
Publication date: 21/11/2023
Date of decision: 14/11/2023
Decided at meeting: 14/11/2023 - Cabinet