Well done to Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL) who has just scooped a national social enterprise award. GLL operates leisure centres throughout London and runs as a leisure trust which means that any surplus it makes, is redirected back into developing staff and improving facilities. It’s a business model that is now being increasingly considered by council’s throughout the UK in the way that public sector leisure facilities are managed. Trusts work to a different set of financial guidelines to the private sector (relief on business rates, VAT breaks etc) which means that councils receive a strong service for a reducing level of year on year subsidy. In an earlier post, I mentioned that I am now a Trustee for five leisure centres in East Sussex.
Next year GLL is forecast to be operating 50 centres with a turnover of £50 million – pretty good for an organisation set up 13 years ago. But you don’t win social enterprise awards for just delivering the same service at a cheaper rate, they have achieved some extraordinary levels of engagement with local populations. In Greenwich for example, 80,000 of the borough’s 230,000 residents own leisure cards, a penetration rate of 35% – the highest in the UK. Adult usage of private health and fitness clubs, by contrast, is running at about 9%, which among other things, means that clubs are not the `community hubs` that they really should be.
GLL will be bidding to operate the new London Olympic facilities following the 2012 games – they already operate in all five Olympic boroughs. Good luck GLL – no doubt you’ll have the community behind you.