Overview of Leisure Trust Performance

Comparison of performance of in-house and leisure trust services between 2000-2006 and summary of Bristol, Chiltern and East Herts trust failures.

An Audit Commission analysis of 84 inspection reports on local authority sports and leisure services showed that 6% of directly delivered local authority services were excellent compared to 0% of trusts; the comparable figures for good services were 37% compared to 30% of trusts; 60% of trusts were judged to be ‘fair’ compared with 52% of directly provided services; and 0% of the latter were considered poor compared to 10% of trusts. On the basis of these samples Leisure Trusts are not performing as well as local authority in-house services.

The Audit Commission has carried out ten Best Value inspections of local authority leisure services where the Trust was established and operational at the time of inspection. 64% of the Trusts received only a fair one star service and one was rated poor which has since been returned in-house and the trust disbanded. Thus 73% of the Trusts had a poor or fair rating which suggests that there is a large credibility gap between the promotional rhetoric surrounding Trusts and operational reality.

At least four Trusts have collapsed

Bristol trust collapse Despite the fanfare surrounding the launch of the Bristol Community Sport (BCS) trust in 1997, the council’s Best Value Review and the Audit Commission inspection in 2002 were a damning analysis of leisure services. Leisure was described as a ‘service of two halves’ – poor quality facilities (managed by the trust) and innovative sports development (provided by the council).

East Herts and Enfield Trusts collapse Enfield Leisure Trust went into liquidation on 4 September 2006. Its subsidiary, East Herts Leisure Trust, trading as Aspire Leisure Trust, had a contract with East Hertfordshire DC which had a £500,000 deficit in the first year of a five-year contract. East Herts Council were forced to terminate the contract and transfer the service and jobs to Stevenage Leisure Trust (East Herts report – www.european-services-strategy.org.uk).

Chiltern Leisure Trust Chiltern District Council had to write off £1.2m and terminate the trust in 2004 after it had submitted a business plan to the Council to reduce its mounting debts since its formation in 2000. However, the trust sought an increase in the management fee to £672,000 which the council rejected.

Performance of Leisure Trusts in Scotland The performance of five Leisure Trusts in Scotland in 2002 showed that In only three out of eighteen indicators was their performance better than the Scottish average (Newcastle UNISON, 2003).