Leisure Procurement – Practical Tips and Lessons Learned

by Louis Sebastian, Legal Services Team Manager

This year the NWL Legal team completed the outsourcing of North West Leicestershire District Council’s leisure centres following a Competitive Dialogue procurement. This 25 year “Design, Build, Operate and Maintain” contract will deliver a new £23m leisure centre in Coalville and see over £75m of revenue generated during its term.

Having acted as lead lawyers on this major project, we summarise some of the key considerations that we grappled with during this procurement.

  • Governance
    – The decision to enter into the contract is an executive function and so is to be made by Cabinet.
    – If such a large outsourcing has implications for the budget then making changes to the budget fall to Full Council.
    – Obtaining delegated authority to award the contract (within certain operational and financial parameters) before launching the procurement allowed the process to run efficiently without the risk and delay of obtaining further formal decisions later on.
    – Running Member workshops at regular intervals is a helpful way to provide transparency and keep Members on board with the process.
  • Finances
    – A rigorous affordability model of the status quo, setting out fixed assumptions, should be prepared at the earliest possible stage. It is the only way to know whether outsourcing will be an improvement.
    – Generating a Financial Response Template with fixed formulae for all bidders to fill in as part of their submissions is essential to allowing comparison between financial submissions.
  • Staff
    – Consultation with staff before and during the procurement process so they have a clear picture of what the implications are will make the TUPE transfer process much easier when it happens.
    – Consider the Data Protection implications of sharing staff data with bidders (anonymise at the tender stage) and with the winning bidder. If the outsourcing contract isn’t signed when data is shared, ensure a Data Protection Impact Assessment and a Data Sharing Agreement are in place.
    – Engage with your LGPS provider to determine the appropriate Contribution Rate. This is likely to change during the procurement and so keep bidders up to date.
  • Land
    – Identify land for new-build centre at an early stage and consult widely with residents, neighbours and other public bodies on matters such as access, traffic, utilities and other impacts.
    – Ensure land boundaries are clearly identified and clarify any boundary issues with the Land Registry and neighbours at an early stage.
    – Prepare your property searches, replies to enquiries and title reports early on so they can be disclosed to bidders at the start of the procurement.

Complex procurements require careful planning and close management. The expertise of professionals with experience of running these projects can be invaluable. For more information on leisure procurements from an in-house perspective, contact Louis Sebastian on louis.sebastian@nwleicestershire.gov.uk or 01530 454 770.