Below is the response I received from NLL to my recent communication regarding concerns that the Waterpark is to be closed on week days.
Dear Mr MacGregor,
Thank you for your comments about the Time Capsule.
May I respond as follows.
The present situation is informed and driven solely by the planned capital works, management of emerging issues and the forward planning of works required to complete these works successfully. Additionally, a business continuity plan has been developed and implemented to provide access to services over this period. Allied to this a communications strategy was developed that has provided notice to staff and customers around service delivery and access, aspirations around the ambitious improvement plans and the benefits that will potentially be enjoyed by NLL customers, members and groups when these are complete.
I am unable to comment on the public speculation around the venue, suffice to say as I am sure you are also aware, that I along with the Board of Directors of NLL continue to review our operations and explore efficiency options internally in line with the current and very challenging funding constraints, overhead and operational cost pressures and the NLL trading position. These discussions and deliberations are ongoing to achieve a balanced budget for 2019/20.
All works have been based on customer and staff feedback to improve the customer experience. Upgrade and expansion and of the changing village and toilet facilities are required to improve the standards of cleaning and hygiene, child supervision and safety, staff supervision and reduce anti-social behavior. These works are essential to ensure NLL can continue to provide the local community with a first class health, fitness and social experience.
In terms of disability groups utilising the waterpark there are no specific groups bookings at present, however as mentioned there will be services provided in the Waterpark to support participation on an individual and pay as you go basis. Groups booking can also be discussed on request. Additionally, assisted support needs sessions are available for skating every Sunday 6.00pm – 7.30pm and for swimming every Wednesday from 8.15pm to 9.00pm.
All capital works in the Waterpark will be completed by March 2019.
Whilst we are aware that the planned closure will cause inconvenience to users, this action is necessary to ensure the works can be achieved safely, successfully and efficiently. The full venue will remain open during this period with the exception of the Waterworld, however an ambitious business contingency plan has been put in place to sustain services to meet local demand during the work period in line with anticipated seasonal trends for this time of the year. In this regard this, the Waterpark will be only be closed fully in November and December, with weekend operating being implemented in January, February & March in addition to the school break period. This constitutes a significant increase in operating days than was initially envisaged and will continue to cater for periods of high demand. As stated the rest of the venue including the 25m pool, Ice Rink, Gym & Fitness Studios will remain unaffected during this refurbishment period, allowing customers to participate and enjoy services as normal free from any disruption.
In terms of employee notification, staff had been informed about the imminent works which were planned to commence in November, but unfortunately due to the works time lines this has been extended beyond what was previously anticipated. NLL have put out a full communication plan to all staff in regards to the works and progress update as we go forward. Additionally, the Waterworld was closed during October for essential maintenance and reopened on the 2 November for 3 days which influenced the communication plan to casual staff, and from this date the casual staff were briefed by venue management in regarding to the planned operating periods from January to the end of March due to extension of the capital works. The casual staff resource are a valued and essential part of the a NLL workforce plan to ensure the quality, sustainability and reliability of service delivery and will continue to be treated in a fair and equitable basis within the prevailing policy and procedures provision within NLL. NLL also play a full and active part within a collective consultation agreement with the trade unions regarding employee relations within the organisation. NLL will progress a redeployment plan across all the venues for all full time, part time and variable staff to ensure employment hours are safeguarded during this time frame. It is also anticipated that we will still also require numerous casual employees who will be offered opportunities at the weekend at the Waterpark and also other venues throughout NLL
North Lanarkshire Leisure (NLL) operates as an ALEO (Arms-Length External Organisation) of North Lanarkshire Council. We work in close partnership with the Council, as its sports and leisure provider, sharing its vision to provide the highest quality services across the area. We are a not-for-profit organisation, limited by guarantee, and any surplus income is reinvested to improve facilities, services, programmes, activities and staff training in pursuit of NLL’s charitable objectives. In my role I truly and wholly recognise the value, benefits and contributions that NLL services deliver to local communities particularly and common to very challenging and deprived local environments. This is in regard to the execution of our charitable objectives to promote the advancement of public health ,the advancement of public participation in sport, the provision of recreational facilities to the community and the provision of social welfare. Please be assured that all decisions that I consider are founded and based on safeguarding the quality, stability and sustainability of the services we deliver. These services are delivered within a customer focused approach in order to meet the sport, physical activity, social and health needs of the communities within North Lanarkshire
Looking to the future and as you may be aware, NL Leisure faces significant financial pressures due to the increasingly difficult marketplace that it finds itself operating within. This, coupled with a reduction in management fee made available from NLC has found the organisation dealing with unprecedented financial pressures. The last 3 years have seen efficiency savings totalling £7.048m which represents 55% of the total efficiency savings the company has had to make since 2006. At the same time the management fee has also seen significant cuts, again with the highest proportion over the last three years. The management fee as a proportion of turnover has reduced from 57% in 2006/7 to 33% in 2018/19. Given the pressures on public sector finance, it seems likely that pressures to further reduce the management fee will remain. Based on the latest information from NLC and their anticipated budget settlement for 2019/20, NLL are already scenario planning for further reductions in the management fee allied to inflationary costs pressures impacting on the overall efficiency savings required to reach a balanced budget.
You may be aware that in order to avert cost pressures this year myself and the Board of Directors approved a programme of revised opening hours and local service agreements to mitigate current cost pressures and provide savings options for next year given the anticipated and forthcoming budget settlements. By implementing the efficiency savings this year it will ensure that the company will meet the breakeven budget set for this year as well as allowing the new operating models to be fully tested to allow for any amendments and to finalise likely annual savings for the 2019/20 financial year. These were very challenging decisions, however were required to provided sustainability in the current financial climate. To support and inform this NLL thoroughly completed due diligence and analysed usage, customer and club profiles at each of the venues, and tailored opening hours to meet demand in efforts to minimise the impact on customers.
Given these pressures, it is prudent for NLL to continue to explore all options and responsibly review the operational subsidies and investment requirements based on income generation opportunities of the individual facilities across the operational portfolio. This is imperative to mitigate against the budget cost pressures that NLL are facing to ensure the future financial sustainability of the organisation. In this situation no current services are protected and the review and due diligence on services and savings will continue moving forward and will be fulfilled in consultation with staff, customers and our trade unions partners. No further announcements on this are envisaged at the current time.
Based on the above approach the Time Capsule service plan and opening hours will be subject to ongoing review to support the 2019/20 budget plan and to best meet customer needs for services required. I would advise that the venue operates at a significant subsidy and is experiencing diminishing income returns year on year and against budget and increasing staffing costs and other operating costs which mean the status quo is not tenable. Within this approach I will be reviewing options to make the Waterpark more cost effective whilst also enhance the health & safety of the area through modern technology and the utilisation of cameras. This is carried out in conjunction and in association with external industry experts within the leisure industry.
I trust you find my response helpful.