Council to overhaul how North Yorkshire leisure centres are run

Aquafit at Richmond Swimming Pool.

North Yorkshire Council will overhaul the way leisure centres are run across the county by bringing them in-house.

The change will mean Richmond Swimming Pool, which is currently operated by Richmondshire Leisure Trust, run by North Yorkshire Council in the future.

It follows a review of how the authority delivers leisure services after local government reorganisation, which abolished the seven district councils that previously owned council leisure centres until last April.

North Yorkshire Council said it wanted to see a greater focus on health and wellbeing and ensure a broader range of people can access leisure centres.

Conservative councillors on the decision-making executive agreed to the changes at a meeting this morning in Northallerton.

Cllr Simon Myers, Conservative executive member for leisure, said it was a “very exciting time” for the county. He said: “The reimagining and repurposing of our excellent leisure facilities towards public health and wellbeing will mean a better service for all.”

North Yorkshire Council inherited one of the largest leisure portfolios in the country and now owns more than 20 leisure facilities including the Harrogate Leisure and Wellness Centre (formerly the Hydro), Craven Leisure in Skipton and Scarborough Sports Village in Scarborough.

However, the former district councils ran their leisure centres differently, with outsourced private companies, in-house teams and a trust all used.

Harrogate Borough Council created arm’s length company Brimham’s Active to run its leisure centres in 2021 but it is now set to be replaced in the new structure.

A report prepared for councillors said this was “no reflection” on Brimham’s which delivers “much-valued and high-quality services” at venues including the Turkish Baths in Harrogate and Knaresborough’s new leisure centre and pool.

The council said the in-house model would “provide clarity and consistency for customers, a clear link with democratic decision making and strategic control for the council.”

It will be phased in over the next four years as current contracts come to an end.

The union Unison, which represents council staff, said it was supportive of the changes.

Cllr David Chance, executive member for corporate services, said he was pleased the council did not opt to outsource the running of leisure centres following the review.

He said: “All outsourcing does is encourage very good local government officers to move to the private sector to manage services they were managing in the first place.

“The thrust of being a health and wellbeing service is right and proper. It will allow this council to move forward without any cuts to those services unlike some councils around the country.”