Holywell Leisure Centre

Social Business Wales support helps to save leisure centre and its workforce

Swimming class taking place

In recent years, Holywell Leisure Centre has faced potential closure due to cutbacks by Flintshire County Council. The staff who worked there wanted to save the facility and their jobs, so wanted to explore the option of a community asset transfer as the neighbouring Cambrian Aquatics (Connah’s Quay Leisure Centre) had done. A group came together to explore possible options, including a board of trustees some of whom had business experience but no knowledge of community asset transfers.

A member of the Centre’s management team contacted Social Business Wales to see if there was scope to develop the facility as a community-run or employee-owned venture.

Social Business Wales advised Holywell Leisure Centre on the asset transfer process, so it could be moved from local authority ownership. With this came the transfer of staff via the TUPE process (Transfer of Undertakings – Protection of Employment), as it was felt that they were central to the success of the organisation. Before this could happen, Social Business Wales supported the Centre’s management to preserve employee rights and put an effective business model in place. As a result of the community asset transfer and TUPE process, 47 jobs were safeguarded from redundancy.

In recent months a handful of relief staff have received training and attained qualifications that puts them in a place where their jobs could become permanent in the near future. This would obviously bolster staff numbers, but it also increases the level of flexibility in service provision, as a number of staff members can cover multiple tasks and roles within the Centre, as a multi-skilled workforce.

As well as a leisure centre, with many indoor and outdoor activities and classes, there is an on-site library and café, meeting space, craft club and book club. This means the Centre is viewed as a community hub and is treated as such by people who live in the town. The facility is in the process of developing new income streams, by hiring out the main hall as a wedding and conference venue. It has been noticed that there’s been an increase in use of the Centre by young families. The Centre offers something for all ages.

Social Business Wales support also covered Environmental Management Systems, which has helped the Centre to save money by reviewing the way it uses its boiler and heating system.

VAT analysis that was made possible by the support from Social Business Wales helped to make the Centre’s business plan feasible through improving profit margins. And from an HR perspective, additional support was provided to develop a new staff handbook, which was one of the final pieces of the process in transferring from local authority ownership. The handbook was also tailored for non-TUPE staff, to make it easier for the Centre to employ people in the future.

Tudor Jones, Chair of the Board of Trustees, Holywell Leisure Centre:

“It was clear from outset that Social Business Wales had a lot to offer and that we, as trustees, had a lot to gain. We needed technical advice on HR, VAT and so on. For example, we needed to learn about VAT benefits - we didn’t know what they were and how they worked. We also had to register with the Charities Commission.  The support with VAT was going to be crucial in helping us to make a viable business case for the newly-formed employee-run version of the Centre.
I’d say always seek advice and seek advice from people with expertise and experience and the will to support you in every way they can. This was the case with Social Business Wales.”

Eifion Williams, Business Adviser, Social Business Wales:

“It was a pleasure to work with Tudor and the team at Holywell Leisure Centre. They’ve gone through a lot to get to where they are and it was good to know that Social Business Wales could help them with all of the things that could help them with the community asset transfer and safeguarding of the workforce. As a social business, the Centre is in a good position to keep growing for the future.”

If you’re currently managing or working for an organisation or local facility that is facing closure, but want to keep it alive, contact Social Business Wales. We can help to take you through the process of a community asset transfer, which can put ownership of your business and buildings in your hands. This can also help to save the jobs of existing staff and look to the future for employing new workers.