Addressing the Sustainability of a Community Asset Transfer
Identifying and creating sustainable practices for a much-loved community leisure facility at risk of closure.
A highly valued leisure facility was successfully transferred from the Local Authority to a local pressure group who had campaigned to keep the pool open. The group had received a significant capital and revenue grant but were struggling to achieve sustainable practices. There was a risk that the facility would be lost.
The funder approached The Female Alchemist to work with the board and staff of the leisure facility to identify issues that were preventing the growth and sustainability of the organisation. They required a comprehensive report with a list of recommendations so that the funding body could understand the issues and agree next steps. Following the report, the funder commissioned The Female Alchemist to work with the board to plan and implement a strategy for organisational change and cultural change within the organisation with the aim of developing a sustainable model of delivery.
Having reviewed the process for the asset transfer including any prior advice received by the charity, The Female Alchemist was able to identify some critical issues that put the charity at a significant disadvantage from the outset.
Looking ahead, we examined the business model, the sustainability, structure and roles and responsibilities of the staff of the charity. From this analysis, we established that the group had been poorly advised when the local authority transferred the service, with the main concern being the TUPE implications of a team of staff who were all on enhanced terms and conditions and had long service rather than simply transferring the asset alone.
The Pool Manager had become Business and Enterprise Manager, and despite a lack of suitability testing, the team staff were also assigned new job descriptions. The result was a team that continued to perform duties assigned to them by the old local authority but under disparate job titles. There was a lack of enterprise and a culture of service delivery rather than business development and sustainability.
On inspecting the accounts, it became clear that a historic, utility debt which had been transferred over from the Local Authority and had been left un-contested was having a negative impact on the credit rating of the charity. The Female Alchemist restructured the team, planned a business model which would achieve sustainability. Advised the board on an approach with the local authority to negotiate additional support and facilitated the necessary redundancies.
We successfully negotiated a settlement agreement with the pool manager which the charity could afford. Furthermore, alongside the team and board members we designed a business development strategy, engaging with local tourist attractions offering special rates for those camping and caravanning in the area. By offering special rates we saw an immediate increase in take up in both the pool and the café and this continued.
The Female Alchemist worked with the board to improve understanding of their role and ensure proper policies and procedures were in place. Through this support, the board were able to negotiate a significant package of support from the local authority. In addition to this, the board were able to engage the utility company to resolve the issue of the inherited debt and through support and guidance. Lastly, The Female Alchemist assisted the Friends of Group to focus their activity on income generation to support the leisure facility.