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Friday, September 19, 2014

County's leisure strategy goes under microscope

Denbighshire County Council's efforts to successfully transform its leisure provision was under the spotlight at a prestigious conference  staged by the Welsh Government at Llangollen Pavilion this week.

The Council's leisure services has been transformed over recent years from a failing service into a sector leading  service.

The Council was asked to host the Welsh Government Conference on Leisure Services for Physical Activity. Leader of Denbighshire , Councillor Hugh Evans OBE, addressed the conference. The Welsh Government also commissioned an independent view of Denbighshire Leisure by a specialist in the leisure sector.

Councillor Evans, said: "We were  delighted that the Welsh Government approached us to host this prestigious conference in our county, with a focus on our journey of improvement. We have a story to tell and we want to share our experiences.

"It is safe to say that leisure was seen as a struggling service in the past.  We have come a long way from those dark days when our leisure centres were not operated efficiently. Indeed, they lacked a clear vision and commitment to improving the offer.

"Over recent years, we have become a lot more business focused, listening to the needs of our customers and bringing them back to the fold through offering a far more attractive programme of activities.  

"We have recognised the need to be far more competitive,  understanding the market a lot better and generally being a lot more customer-focussed.   The culture and ethos of the service have also changed. Effective communication has been key, and we have now implemented a management structure that is fit for purpose and makes the best use of expertise and resources we have in the service.

"Our leisure centres have become virtually self-sufficient and we are now in a position where people are turning to us to hear about our experiences, to learn from what we have been through, how we have transformed leisure and to hear our future plans.

Jamie Groves, Denbighshire's Head of Communication, Marketing and Leisure, said: "Leisure is now very much a corporate service with strong working relationships with colleagues in education, health and social care.  Leisure is also increasingly becoming an important element of the Council's economic and regeneration ambitions.

"We are bucking the trend nationally when it comes to investment. You only need to pick up a newspaper or listen to the television news bulletins and often the headlines involve the threat of closing  leisure centres somewhere in the UK.  In Denbighshire, we are actually investing in our leisure facilities and a number of our key leisure centres has been significant investment over recent years. At Denbigh Leisure Centre, where we have carried out a major refurbishment  -  the demand for activities has grown so much that we are having to carry out further work to meet that increasing demand.

"Our ambition for developing the leisure offer along the coast has been well -publicised. We have a clear vision - to develop first class leisure facilities  that will have long term benefits to the health and well-being of residents, but will also be a major contributory factor in enhancing the local economy. We want our future leisure developments along the coast to be a catalyst for further inward investment and we are currently assessing proposals that have been submitted to re-vamp our leisure offer, so watch this space.

"Of course there is more that we can do to develop leisure in the future and we will not become complacent.  We think we are in the right place to further develop our leisure vision, for the benefit of our residents."

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