Sport and Leisure Strategy Update
- Meeting of Communities and Equalities Scrutiny Committee, Tuesday, 12th October, 2021 10.00 am (Item 43.)
Report of the Strategic Director – Neighbourhoods
The report provides an overview on the leisure centre recovery position in Manchester, following the most recent restart on Monday 12 April 2021. The report sets out the performance of the various sport and leisure centres compared to their pre-pandemic levels. The report details usage data, lesson and course uptake information and health and fitness patronage. The report also highlights demographic data and how this has changed during the pandemic for protected characteristic groups.
The Committee received a report of the Strategic Director (Neighbourhoods) which provided an overview on the leisure centre recovery position in Manchester, following the most recent restart on 12 April 2021. The report set out the performance of the various sport and leisure centres compared to their pre-pandemic levels. The report detailed usage data, lesson and course uptake information and health and fitness patronage. The report also highlighted demographic data and how this had changed during the pandemic for protected characteristic groups.
The main points and themes within the report included:
- Background information;
- Current position;
- Participation and usage levels;
- Equalities information; and
- Next steps.
Some of the key points that arose from the Committee’s discussions were:
- A suggestion for family days at leisure centres to promote the activities and facilities available;
- Was data on BAME leisure centre users broken down by gender available, to ensure that activities were accessible to BAME women;
- Request for information on the provision of women-only classes;
- What was being done to encourage people from areas of higher deprivation to return to leisure facilities; and
- The impact of the forthcoming temporary closure of the Aquatics Centre for refurbishment work.
In response to a question from the Chair, the Head of Parks, Leisure, Events and Youth outlined work that had been carried out across the city’s leisure facilities to reduce their carbon footprint and advised that this would continue to be a focus for the service in future. A Member asked for further information on this work to be included in a future report.
The Head of Parks, Leisure, Events and Youth reported that family days had been held previously and agreed that they were an effective way to engage people with leisure facilities. He reported that he would speak to leisure operators about arranging more family days when he met with them the following week. He advised that all the demographic data that the service currently held had been included in the report. He reported that participation by women and ethnic minorities had increased from pre-pandemic levels. He advised that, when they had re-opened, pools were not operating the full range of sessions due to social distancing but that, with demand increasing, more women-only sessions were being re-introduced. A Member highlighted the increase in use of Whalley Range Sports Stadium and its strong women only offer and suggested that their approach be replicated elsewhere. In response to a Member’s question on pre-operative transgender women and women-only swimming sessions, the Head of Parks, Leisure, Events and Youth advised that he would look into this and respond to the Member.
In response to a Member’s question, the Head of Parks, Leisure, Events and Youth advised that grants had been provided to voluntary and community organisations through MCR Active to provide additional support for them with recovery from the impact of the pandemic.
The Head of Parks, Leisure, Events and Youth reported that, when new facilities with swimming pools had been built to replace older pools, community groups had stepped in to run some of the older facilities which would have otherwise been closed and this had led to additional pool capacity in the city; however, he advised that, the Aquatics Centre provided a significant part of the city’s capacity and it was, therefore, planned to phase the work, for example, carrying out work on the upstairs and downstairs pools separately so that some access was still available during this period.
The Head of Parks, Leisure, Events and Youth advised that the Council was working with its leisure operators to look at ways to identify and incentivise people on lower incomes to return to leisure facilities. He reported that discounted charges for off-peak use of leisure facilities had recently been introduced.
The Chair reported that he had received an email from a Manchester resident questioning why swim only membership and gym and swim membership were no longer available and stating that he had not seen any offers or discounts being promoted by the leisure operator Better. The Chair asked officers to respond to these points.
The Head of Parks, Leisure, Events and Youth reported that the contractual arrangements with its leisure providers gave the Council control over their pricing which protected the charge for a range of activities; however, he advised that the providers had some freedoms to introduce new products, determine the pricing of those products and also to remove them at a later date, as well as to introduce discounts whenever they felt this was appropriate. He advised that operators could choose to no longer make these offers available to new customers, for example, because the use of the facility was reaching saturation point. He advised that operators tended to offer discounts at particular times of the year, such as New Year, to coincide with a promotional campaign, that some discounts had been introduced over the summer which were no longer available but that more would be introduced in future to coincide with future campaigns to increase participation.
To note the report.