Procurement options and analysis ‘Think Tank’

  Keen to provide a platform for best practice in procurement and options analysis for leisure services, I recently facilitated a Think Tank with Amardeep Gill, Partner – Trowers and Hamlins.  The session was designed to share lessons learned and promote the development of more effective partnerships, leisure contracts and outcomes.

Nine leading local authorities were represented, some of whom had recently procured or were seeking to procure an operational partner. Several were seeking to combine major refurbishments or new builds into the procurement.  Also in attendance were three leisure operators, GLL, Fusion Lifestyles and Valley Leisure Limited who were all keen to contribute and better understand key drivers for Councils and to allow for a two way dialogue to occur as part of the Think Tank.

Some of the key learning opportunities highlighted by attendees at the beginning of the Think Tank included:

  1. What to do in preparation for a formal procurement
  2. How to avoid being confined by the procurement process
  3. How to ensure that Members are kept informed of the partnership and understand its parameters
  4. How to ensure that a contract identifies and seeks to address health inequalities and is linked to public health outcomes
  5. Ageing leisure stock – how investment can change communities
  6. Integrating a Design Build Operate and Maintain into a wider management contract
  7. Exploring which services to include within an externalisation (eg sports development, parks , cultural and  heritage services)
  8. How to identify better models for improved commercial performance and better access for targeted users
  9. How to create hubs of activity supported by a leisure contract
  10. How to ensure operators engage with their communities in particular, the voluntary sector / friends groups
  11. How to ensure a contract can be flexible.

These issues highlighted the challenges and complexities of procurement faced by both clients, operators and their advisers.

Top Ten Procurement Considerations

The key learning from the session is summarised below.

  1. Have a clear strategy – understand the communities you want to reach and the outcomes you want to achieve based on need.
  2. Make sure you know the condition of your buildings and have a clear strategy for their rationalisation / replacement or refurbishment
  3. Be clear about what investment the Council is prepared to provide and your approach to sharing risk. Remember you cannot transfer all the risk without it significantly increasing the cost of the contract.
  4. Assess options based on the whole life costs to the council over the length of the contract.
  5. Build understanding of elected members and senior officers in the procurement journey ahead and likely issues and opportunities
  6. Consider how the contract will need to flex with future changes in administration, policy and the emergence of Health and Wellbeing Boards and increased commissioning opportunities.
  7. Have early informal discussions with the market – but be mindful of procurement risks and exploiting goodwill.
  8. Undertake formal options appraisals to determine which services you wish to be included in the contract.
  9. Articulate your requirements and ambitions clearly within your contract documentation.
  10. Establish the contract to succeed on a shared set of goals, developing relationships and trust, but have the detail to support both parties if things go wrong.

A summary report of the Think Tank is available for cCLOA members, if you would like a copy please e-mail me at:

Duncan Wood-Allum, Director, The Sport, Leisure and Culture Consultancy Ltd &  cCLOA Executive Member

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