Case study: City of Wolverhampton Council's Leisure Service
Updated: Apr 15
Client: City of Wolverhampton Council
Date: November 2019 – March 2020
Challenges faced by the client: The City of Wolverhampton Council runs its own leisure service under the brand name WV Active. The service is focused around three leisure centres and is vital to the Council’s public health strategy and delivering against its priorities of keeping older people active, supporting good mental health, and tackling childhood obesity.
Over the last couple of years, the service has seen a significant increase in active members, with membership growing from 6,000 to 10,000. The council sees potential for further growth, to deliver more services from community leisure facilities, and to engage with users in the city that do not typically attend the leisure centres.
The Council wanted support to identify the best model for the service. It felt that a more ambitious leisure offer could address public health challenges, engage partners in the NHS and business community, and increase the long-term financial viability of the service.
Mutual Ventures (MV) were commissioned to explore the options for establishing an alternative delivery model for the future of WV Active. The purpose of the project was to provide a sustainable base for the service, support public health outcomes, and facilitate innovation.
Working with the council, we looked at how a new model could provide a more flexible operational approach, create the conditions for future growth, and enhance WV Active’s objective to help residents to live longer, healthier and more active lives.
The first stage in this process was to conduct a robust Options Appraisal, to analyse the options available to the Council, and to provide a recommendation for further analysis. The second stage was to develop a detailed business case, setting out the strategic, economic, commercial, financial and management case for the preferred option.
We worked alongside the service leads in leisure and public health, and corporate colleagues, to investigate the strategic case for change, understand technical considerations, and analyse financial implications of change.
The project was part-funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) Mutual Support Programme 2 and City of Wolverhampton Council.
Mutual Ventures supported Wolverhampton Council through a thorough process of investigation and provided the council with the basis to make a well-informed decision. Our conclusion was that the creation of a new leisure trust, in the form of a charity, would best serve the public health and financial sustainability objectives of the council.
As a charity, the service would become more operationally flexible allowing it to broaden its service offer and develop a presence in the community which goes beyond the walls of the leisure centres. Additional community facilities could be brought under the WV Active umbrella, which would bring a consistency of provision across Wolverhampton and maximise opportunities for residents.
A new model would allow WV Active to pursue a range of new activities, income-generating opportunities, and forge new partnerships. As a charity, WV Active could be competitive in the local health and fitness market, and generate additional income from grants, sponsorship and commercial opportunities which may not be available to other types of organisation. Our modelling showed that these benefits would offset the costs of implementation, producing a net financial gain.