Peterborough may get running activity park as leisure services to remain under council-control for three more years
Leisure services in Peterborough will continue to be run by a city council-controlled body for at least three more years.
Members of the Shareholder Cabinet Committee agreed the extension with Peterborough Limited to last until September 2024.
The organisation took over leisure services last year following the collapse of not-for-profit trust Vivacity due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Arts, culture, heritage and library services run by Vivacity were transferred to City College Peterborough - which is also an extension of the council - at the same time.
The council said the decision to keep the services ‘in house’ will allow them to receive government support which would not be possible if it outsourced them again.
Speaking at Monday’s meeting, corporate director of resources Peter Carpenter said: “Even though the Peterborough Limited team have not been as active as they would’ve liked in providing leisure services for the council and to the people of Peterborough – for obvious reasons – as we move away from the restrictions imposed upon them by Covid-19 they will be seeking additional funding to supply more and more services of the kind we think the city wants and deserves.”
Cllr Irene Walsh, cabinet member for adult social care, health and public health, said: “When are we likely to see all of this happening? I’m very conscious of Covid-19 restrictions, of course, but the sun is shining, the weather is warm and people want to know when they will be able to access these leisure services again?
“I’m a member of Premier Fitness myself and I know how long the staff there have been on furlough. It seems strange to me that we have space not being used and staff still on furlough, so can you give me some kind of idea when that situation is likely to change?”
Jamie Fenton, culture and leisure development manager, replied: “We are actively working on these spaces at the moment, we have some more table tennis tables going in as we speak and we’re hoping to re-launch that activity in the next few weeks.”
Kitran Eastman, managing director of Peterborough Limited, added: “Where we’ve not been able to run fitness classes indoors, what we have done where possible is to organise them outdoors and invite people to take part in exercising outdoors if they wish to do so.
“The popularity of these outdoor green space classes has varied, and certainly diminished now that the indoor options are once again available, but we were pleased to offer the alternative when there was no other option.
“I would just say that we have very few staff still on furlough now, and if they are then it is for a very specific reason – and if anything, we’re actually looking to recruit more staff as we lost quite a few during lockdown and we want to keep the quality of the service we provide as high as possible.
“We are installing a new IT system that sits behind all of leisure services which will provide our staff with more flexibility and safety, logging who goes where and when and why, and we hope to have that installed in time for the autumn which will make our current booking system a lot more user-friendly than it is at the moment.”
Mr Fenton added: “We want to bring our outdoor and indoor activities programmes online with the latest Sports England 10 year plan, from which a funding framework element will be released this autumn and we want to be ready for that.”
Cllr Andy Coles, cabinet member for finance, asked: “What about the maintenance of children’s play areas that have been neglected throughout the lockdown period and also, what about organised activities in our parks in the future – how much of that will you be involved in?
“Also, are we looking at more adventurous play areas for teenagers and youths such as adventure playgrounds because I know there is a great demand for these in the city?”
Mr Fenton replied: “We do work with some community groups so yes, if they’re looking to hold an outdoor event rather than their more traditional indoor events, then we would be only to happy to partner with them, depending on what activity they are proposing to deliver and whether they need a licence or not; but yes, in principle we can help where we can.
“Where any group wants to provide an activity that helps health and wellbeing and needs support then please do come through me and we will see what we can do.
“In terms of more adventure playgrounds for teenagers and youths we’re in the middle of a programme of working with the parks accelerator group to look into that very question for skateparks, BMX parks and pump parks.
“One of the areas we’re looking at straight away is a running activity park for which there is no comparable facility in Peterborough at the moment.”
Mr Carpenter said: “In respect of the playgrounds, we are in the middle of a programme of upgrading and refurbishing children’s playgrounds, for which from memory I think we have about £400,000, but that’s to cover something like 56 different playgrounds that we’re trying to upgrade within Peterborough.”