Oldham Community Leisure

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Oldham Community Leisure's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Oldham Community Leisure is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles


Highlighting best practice
Oldham Community Leisure
Chief Executive and Chair
of Community Leisure UK,
Stuart Lockwood
New Oldham Leisure centre opened in 2016,
demonstrating investment from the council
Oldham is one of the most deprived areas in the UK and
has an average level of health that is below the national
average. Indeed, in its most deprived areas, the life
expectancy is roughly ten years lower than the national average.
Oldham Community Leisure is profoundly aware of this state
of affairs and has therefore sought to provide facilities and
programmes that meet this challenge. Emphasis is also placed
on those who face barriers to healthy lifestyles. Chief Executive
Stuart Lockwood tells
The Parliamentary Review
Oldham’s problems and our solutions
Oldham Community Leisure (OCL) is a former council leisure service department,
set up as an industrial and provident society in 2002. Since then, the organisation
has raised participation levels and broadened the scope of services to include
community-based activities as well as health intervention programmes. Such
programmes include those relating to falls prevention and exercise referrals that
help rehabilitation for those with long-term health conditions. These could be
conditions such as diabetes or recoveries from major health events like strokes or
heart attacks.
At OCL, we invest heavily in staff training and believe in providing safe and
effective programmes as well as a welcoming environment for facility users
with long-term conditions and health needs. The majority of our gym staff have
fitness qualifications, enabling them to provide specialist advice on conditions
such as musculoskeletal pain and diabetes, as well as on stroke rehabilitation.
»Chief Executive Officer:
Stuart Lockwood
»Founded in 2002
»Located in Oldham, Greater
»Services: Facility and event
management, and health
improvement programmes
»No. of employees: 400
»OCL was successful in
attracting over £2 million of
external funding for both
capital projects and revenue
funding to subsidise health
improvement programmes in
its first ten-year term.
Oldham Community
Thisapproach means that those
customers who would otherwise feel
nervous about exercise can receive
support that enables them to improve
their lifestyle.
Oldham, like many northern towns,
has its health challenges. Physical
activity is a proven and cost-effective
means of prevention and treatment
for a large number of health problems,
as well as mental wellbeing and
social isolation. The trick is to find
something that people enjoy, which
can then be developed and maintained
as a daily routine. It also means that
people are far more likely to sustain
the motivation to exercise regularly
and improve their lifestyle over the
Investing back into the
We have significantly improved our
focus on customer service and on
improving the variety of activities
we offer, both within leisure centres
and in the community. Like many
similar leisure trusts that are charitable
organisations, we reinvest 100 per
cent of all surpluses back into the
communities we serve.
Elements of our business, such as gym
membership subscriptions, largely
generate a profit, and this then helps
us provide subsidised activities for
harder-to-engage groups. For example,
Oldham Community Leisure provides
free adult swimming lessons for
non-swimmers at each of the pools it
manages on behalf of the council; we
want to get rid of barriers for those
wanting to take the first steps towards
a healthier lifestyle. Our strategic
mission is “A Community More Active,
More Often”, and we are increasingly
forming alliances and partnerships
with other organisations who help us
towards this goal.
The relationship with Oldham Council
is strong: the council prides itself on
co-operative values and recognises
the positive role played by third-
sector organisations in the town. They
invested over £23 million in improving
their leisure estate at the start of the
last contract with OCL. We’re working
together to review the terms of the
contract to better capture the positive
wider impact that OCL’s cross-subsidy
model is generating for the town in
tackling health and well-being issues
among those who need it the most. I
strongly believe that the trust model
is the best vehicle for tackling health
problems and inequalities through
encouraging healthier lifestyles.
Concerns of ours
I am also chair of Community Leisure
UK (formerly Sporta), a member-
led organisation that represents
social enterprises delivering health,
well-being and cultural services
throughout the UK. The charitable
trust model is, overall, the preferred
vehicle of English local authorities for
management of their services, with
45 per cent of contracts outsourced
to charitable enterprises (85 per cent
Though new members are joining
year-on-year, the sector is seeing
some shrinkage from consolidation as
Health intervention
demonstrating the
breadth of services
delivered by OCL
I strongly believe
that the trust
model is the
best vehicle for
tackling health
problems and
Highlighting best practice
well as a number of trusts losing their
contracts to large private operators
who use a wholly owned charitable
subsidiary. Community Leisure UK
boasts a membership of 115 social
enterprises, with a combined turnover
of £1.5 billion, a workforce of over
67,000 and a customer base of 233
million visits per annum.
Many councils under financial
pressures are procuring contracts with
heavy weightings on price, and this
“race to the bottom” is a significant
threat to the sector. I am strongly
convinced that the genuine charitable
trust is the best vehicle to deliver on
wider outcomes as part of the value
added to a leisure management
contract. The cross-subsidy is key to
supporting programmes and activities
that would otherwise be viewed as
unsustainable if viewed purely on a
commercial basis.
We aim to generate a modest surplus
as part of our model, but every penny
is reinvested in programmes that
maximise opportunities towards the
strategic aim of “A Community More
Active, More Often”. Last year, we
donated £2,000 towards the set-up
costs of Junior Parkrun in Oldham,
which starts and finishes alongside one
of the sites managed by OCL. Such
funding is a smart investment, pointing
to the success already achieved in
getting Oldham children active in
the town. Around 40 runners per
week are now taking part, and this
number is growing each week, with an
average of 15 volunteers ensuring the
enjoyment and safety of participants.
If a private contractor had been
managing the service, those surpluses
would instead have been taken as
profit for shareholders.
Every penny is
reinvested in
that maximise
towards the
strategic aim of
‘A Community
More Active,
More Often’
Junior Parkrun
demonstrating wider
benefits of cross-subsidy
model by Trust


This article was sponsored by Oldham Community Leisure. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from The Rt Hon Theresa May MP.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

This foreword from the then Prime Minister appeared in the 2018/19 Parliamentary Review.

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review. For Her Majesty’s Government, our task in the year ahead is clear: to achieve the best Brexit deal for Britain and to carry on our work to build a more prosperous and united country – one that truly works for everyone. 

The right Brexit deal will not be sufficient on its own to secure a more prosperous future for Britain. We also need to ensure that our economy is ready for what tomorrow will bring. Our Modern Industrial Strategy is our plan to do that. It means Government stepping up to secure the foundations of our productivity: providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education; delivering infrastructure for growth; ensuring people have the homes they need in the places they want to live. It is all about taking action for the long-term that will pay dividends in the future.

But it also goes beyond that. Government, the private sector and academia working together as strategic partners achieve far more than we could separately. That is why we have set an ambitious goal of lifting UK public and private research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. It is why we are developing four Grand Challenges, the big drivers of social and economic change in the world today: harnessing artificial intelligence and the data revolution; leading in changes to the future of mobility; meeting the challenges of our ageing society; and driving ahead the revolution in clean growth. By focusing our efforts on making the most of these areas of enormous potential, we can develop new exports, grow new industries and create more good jobs in every part of our country.

Years of hard work and sacrifice from the British people have got our deficit down by over three quarters. We are building on this success by taking a balanced approach to public spending. We are continuing to deal with our debts, so that our economy can remain strong and we can protect people’s jobs, and at the same time we are investing in vital public services, like our NHS. We have set out plans to increase NHS funding annually by an average by 3.4 percent in real terms: that is £394 million a week more. In return, the NHS will produce a ten-year plan, led by doctors and nurses, to eliminate waste and improve patient care.

I believe that Britain can look to the future with confidence. We are leaving the EU and setting a new course for prosperity as a global trading nation. We have a Modern Industrial Strategy that is strengthening the foundations of our economy and helping us to seize the opportunities of the future. We are investing in the public services we all rely on and helping them to grow and improve. Building on our country’s great strengths – our world-class universities and researchers, our excellent services sector, our cutting edge manufacturers, our vibrant creative industries, our dedicated public servants – we can look towards a new decade that is ripe with possibility. The government I lead is doing all it can to make that brighter future a reality for everyone in our country. 

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review 
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister