Council announces partnership with private firm to run Sunderland’s leisure centres

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SUNDERLAND City Council has announced Sports and Leisure Management (SLM) will be its new leisure partner.

The council had been seeking a joint venture partner to run its sports and leisure facilities.

SLM has more than 25 years experience of managing local authority leisure contracts and runs 103 facilities across the country in partnership with 36 councils.

Under the partnership, both Sunderland City Council and SLM will each have a 50 per cent stake in the joint venture.

SLM will be responsible for day to day leisure centre operations, with decisions of a more strategic nature carried out at joint-venture level.

The council will retain the final say in relation to certain significant issues.

The new partnership aims to get more people taking part in sport and leisure activities more often.

Since 2004, the council and its partners have invested more than £60million in new and replacement sport and leisure facilities.

A further £11.3m is being invested to replace Washington Leisure Centre, which is scheduled to open in late spring.

Councillor John Kelly, Sunderland City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Public Health, Wellness and Culture, said: “We’re very much looking forward to working with Sports and Leisure Management as our new joint venture partner.

“This partnership will not only protect our £60m investment in the city’s leisure facilities, but ensure further investment in our facilities and the enhancement and expansion of services.

“It also means that we retain an ongoing interest in our fantastic leisure facilities.

“Most importantly it will help us increase activity levels across the city by complementing the excellent work already under way through Active Sunderland, at the same time as achieving the savings we need to make in the long term.”

David Bibby, managing director for SLM Ltd, commented, “We are delighted to be a part of this exciting new partnership with Sunderland City Council and to be expanding our presence within the north of England.”

“We remain committed to delivering the highest standard of facilities at all of our centres, and we look forward to helping to increase activity participation from local communities in Sunderland.”

The process of forming the joint venture company starts now and is expected to be fully operational in early summer.