A few weeks ago, several customers took to Facebook to vent their frustrations at the way that the Energise leisure centre on Cornlands Road had been run since GLL took over last December.
While, in the main, users speak highly of the staff – several of whom have been there for some years – failures in telephones and computers systems were highlighted.
There was a lack of variety in the programme with the centre seemingly reverting to be a sport only venue.
It turned out that the Community Room had been blocked booked by one (Council funded) organisation for the whole of the working week (9:00am – 5:00pm), effectively excluding local older people who looked to the centre as an opportunity to socialise.
Some of the reasons for this strategy have become clear following a response to a recent Freedom of Information request.
It turns out that when the York Council decided to lease the centre to GLL they failed to include in the contract qualitative measures in respect of community activities .
In effect GLL must only meet admission number targets which are set at an annual increase of 1%. There are also some restrictions on the prices that can be charged to “walk up” customers and a minimum opening hours condition.
There is also a very comprehensive SLA in place which covers a range of safety and customer care measures. The Council promises that a performance report will be taken to the “Children’s, Education and Communities Scrutiny Committee” every 6 months (as with other external services: Explore, York Museums Trust, Make it York, etc).
Small wonder then that they are seeking to maximise the numbers passing through the entrance door.
However, Energise (now styled “Better”) was conceived as a Leisure centre and was intended to address the needs of all types of people living within walking distance of the facility. Hence the inclusion of a community room.
There is an expectation in the contract that the centre will work with other “partners”. However, so far, there seems to have been little effort made to integrate activities with those at the Acomb and Dringhouses libraries, with local community centres or residents associations.
Energise has, however, recently announced that they will be repeating the Family Triathlon event on 1st September. But that is also a sports orientated activity.
GLL have not had much time to develop a community engagement strategy although they have been recruiting new staff as they go through a “bedding in” period.
We hope that they will come up with a community focused programme shortly which recognises that the local neighbourhood – which includes many single person households – should be able to regard the centre as their leisure opportunity of choice, irrespective of whether that involves participation sport.