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Case Study: Caerphilly County Borough Council - Levelling Up Fund Round 2 bid development

Challenges faced by the client:

The Caerphilly County Borough Council (the Council) operated Caerphilly Leisure Centre was built in 1962. The ageing building is in poor condition, energy inefficient and not effectively connected to public transport infrastructure. The building’s design, functions and service offer is a limitation to the ability of the Council and their partners to effectively engage with communities and improve health outcomes.


As a result of these challenges, the Council has been unable to offer residents and businesses a modern, competitive, and affordable leisure and wellbeing offer within and around the town centre. There has been a steady decrease in the use of the leisure centre since 2006 which has limited the available funds for investment in new facilities and equipment. The age and poor condition of the centre has led to the Council incurring a significant and increasing annual subsidy.


The Council prioritized securing funding from the Levelling Up Fund and in order to address local inequality and ‘level up’ Caerphilly as a whole.


Support offered:

The Council appointed Mutual Ventures to lead the development of the Council’s Levelling Up Fund Round 2 bid.


MV ‘held the pen’ on the bid and project-managed the process. We were required to work closely with the Council and their appointed design partners (Alliance Leisure) to fully develop the Leisure & Wellbeing Hub (‘L&WBH’) proposition and develop an ambitious, compelling, affordable and Green Book-compliant LUF bid. In addition, we worked closely with Council officers leading the ‘Caerphilly 2035’ economic regeneration bid, as well as the Council leads for another LUF bid focused on the town centre’s transport interchange.


This process commenced with a Theory of Change, which defined ‘the problems we are trying to solve’ from the perspectives of inequality, economic regeneration and carbon reduction. The L&WBH intervention was then designed to address these market failures, with outputs, outcomes and long-term impacts demonstrating how systemic challenges would be addressed and the benefits that the hub would generate.


Our work focused on developing a compelling and evidence-based narrative that demonstrated how the L&WBH would encourage behaviour change (healthier lifestyles etc.) and unlock the economic and civic potential of the town centre through investment in a state-of-the-art and financially sustainable community asset located within the town’s interchange and active travel corridor.


The bid tied together with a clear strategic case and theory of change, economic analysis, a positive cost-benefit ratio (BCR) and a robust plan to manage the project to completion.


Outcome achieved:

Despite a challenging timescale with work on the project only starting three months before the deadline, the Council’s LUF application was submitted on time. The bid requested £20m of central government LUF funding, with the Council providing match funding well in excess of the minimum level recommended by the LUF guidance.


The application had strong support from the local MP, the local Member of the Senedd (MS), elected members, Caerphilly Town Council, Community Councils, Caerphilly Business Forum, local third sector organisations, as well as Aneurin Bevan Health Board. Internal stakeholders included CCBC Cabinet, the Future Generations Advisory Panel, the Partnerships Scrutiny Committee, Caerphilly Youth Service, and the Caerphilly Cares team.

The council received confirmation in January 2023 that their LUF bid was successful, with the council securing central government investment of £20m.

The anticipated outcomes from this investment include:

  • Lower adult obesity levels

  • Higher life expectancy for residents

  • Reduced levels of income deprivation

  • Reduced barriers to services

  • Reduced levels of isolation and depression

  • Improved gateways into training and employment, including internships, volunteering opportunities and new jobs created via the L&WBH

  • Increased commercial activity, leading to increased level of regeneration and inclusive growth across the town centre and beyond

  • Increase employment opportunities and attraction of outside investment - increased business confidence and sentiment

  • Increase in pride in place felt by local residents


Robert Hartshorn, Head of Public Protection, Community and Leisure Services at Caerphilly County Borough Council:


“Having commissioned Mutual Ventures to work alongside us to develop a £20 million bid through the UK Government’s Levelling Up Fund, their professionalism, quality and timeliness of outputs throughout the process was simply first class. With challenging timescales, colleagues at Mutual Ventures efficiently steered us through what could have been an extremely complex process, leading, pleasingly, to a successful bid for a new wellbeing and leisure centre that will benefit thousands of people across our area.


“Our primary contact, Mark Bandalli’s style of working fully complemented ours, and his in-depth understanding of local government and governance was incredibly helpful, as was his sharp focus in identifying areas to further strengthen our bid throughout the process.


“My project team and I found the experience of working alongside the team at Mutual Ventures both rewarding and stimulating, and I would not hesitate in recommending them to colleagues across the local government sector”.

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