LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND. Lifestyle Fitness Centre in the north of Liverpool on 27 January 2020. Picture: Jennifer Bruce/Liverpool City Council

Lifestyles Centres options to be considered

The first steps to transfer control of two of Liverpool’s Lifestyles Centres could begin in the New Year.

A report being considered by the Cabinet on Tuesday 19 December recommends the Council starts a process of seeking expressions of interest from external organisations to take over the running of Everton Park and Park Road Lifestyles.

The two sites have been identified because of their age, cost and low performance in terms of users.

Everton Park was built in 1979 with the pool added in 1984, whilst the swimming pool at Park Road dates back to Victorian times, and the gymnastics facility was built in the mid-1980s.

Footfall at Everton Park is 20 per cent down on pre-Covid levels, and Park Road has fallen by 10 per cent. Despite work to boost the centres’ profile and increase visitors, including half-price membership schemes, the number of direct debit users has dropped across both sites.

Council Tax payers are increasingly having to subsidise the centres – the average cost per visit to Everton Park is £15.85, and for Park Road it is £19.85 – compared to an average of £8.20 per visit for all Lifestyles facilities across the city.

The Lifestyles service has to deliver £900,000 of saving as part of the Council’s Medium Term Financial Plan – but is currently £3.4million overspent each year.

Under the Council’s Community Asset Transfer Policy, any third party interest received would trigger a six-week consultation exercise which would fully explore any impact and opportunities that a change of ownership would bring. The Council would then ask that any interested parties retain community access to the facilities where possible, and at Park Road this would include access to the gymnastics offer.

Following this process, a full report will be presented to the Cabinet in 2024 which will include recommendations for the next steps.

If the transfers go ahead, staff would be relocated to one of the remaining Lifestyles fitness centres, including the newly refurbished Peter Lloyd Lifestyles, which will reopen next year following £2.2million of investment.

The report also notes that a new Physical Activity Strategy will be launched in 2024, to increase the number of children and adults getting active. Conversations will also take place with residents to gain an understanding of how they want to get active, and what can be done to encourage more people to exercise.

The Council currently operates eight facilities:

  • Lifestyles Alsop
  • Lifestyles Austin Rawlinson
  • Lifestyles Aquatics Centre
  • Lifestyles Ellergreen
  • Lifestyles Everton Park
  • Lifestyles Garston
  • Lifestyles Park Road
  • Lifestyles Peter Lloyd

Liverpool City Council’s Cabinet Member for Health, Wellbeing and Culture, Councillor Harry Doyle, said: “Increasing budget pressures mean we have no choice but to take a long, hard look at our Lifestyles Centres to make them affordable in the longer term.

“These two centres are in poor condition and being used by fewer people, and as a result, we are having to subsidise their use more and more.

“This isn’t unique to Liverpool, local authority leisure services across the country are under pressure, due to factors such as reduction in funding and post-Covid uptake in gym memberships. We were sadly unsuccessful in a bid for funding from a £20 million government funding pot to assist with the increased operating costs and sustainability of swimming pools.

“We have a good track record of transferring Council buildings over to partner organisations, who in turn have the ability to be able to attract investment and improve facilities. If the report is approved, we can take the first steps in securing their future.

“We will do all we can to find other organisations to take on the running of the centres, and there would be no job losses, as staff would transfer to other Lifestyles sites.

“As a Council, we value the health and wellbeing of residents and want to do all we can to support them to be more active. By looking closely at how and what we operate going forward, we can begin to plan for any future investment required to make our centres the preferred choice to get active, including the reopening of the popular Peter Lloyd site in 2024. ”

Liverpool Waterfront