Goodbye Fusion: Council won’t extend controversial leisure operator’s Bedford contract

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The foreboding entrance to Oasis Pool isn't inviting.
The foreboding entrance to Oasis Pool isn’t inviting.

Bedford Borough Council has told Fusion Lifestyle they will not be extending their contract to manage and maintain leisure services on their behalf when it ends in January 2024.

The operator has come under fire for several years for poor customer service, poor management of Bedford Leisure facilities, and a £632,000 bailout during covid.

Read: Exclusive: Bedford Mayor breaks silence over Fusion funding

Local people even started a petition to get them removed as the council’s leisure operator.

Read: Kempston resident petitions Council over Fusion Lifestyle contract

The company currently manages Robinson Pool and Leisure Centre, Kempston Pool, Oasis Leisure Pool, Bedford International Athletic Stadium and the John Bunyan Sports and Fitness Centre. They also look after Mowsbury Park Golf Complex and Kempston Outdoor Centre.

While the council maintained that there was little they could do to end the contract early, Sarah Hall, chief officer for regulatory services & culture, told a meeting yesterday (20 July) that Fusion Lifestyle’s 10-year contract with the borough council is due to end on 31 January 2024.

Read: “It’s been tense” talks with Fusion over Borough’s leisure centres continue

“Fusion Lifestyle has been informed that we don’t intend to trigger the clause in the contract that would allow the contract to be extended beyond that expiry date,” she told the Environment and Sustainable Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

“But to ensure that we have continuity of service for all our leisure provision, we’re now preparing to commission an interim leisure provider for all of the sites to take effect from February 1, 2024.

“The contract with the successful provider will be for an initial period of two years, with the option of extending for up to three more years in multiples of 12 months at the discretion of the council.

“That time will enable us to develop and implement a modernisation and investment strategy that reflects the future vision for leisure provision in the borough,” she said.

Ms Hall said that Bedford’s offer was received “very positively” by the leisure sector during market engagement sessions, adding that the borough council expects to receive a number of bids when the procurement process opens.

“The tender process will run from 31 August to 2 October, all bids will be evaluated during October and we will be looking to award the contract to the successful bidder in mid-November,” she said.

“We are already working with Fusion and we’ve had discussions with them today (20 July) in terms of communications for their staff and their contractors,

“We’ll work with them throughout this process to ensure that we have a smooth transition into our new contract in February 2024,” she said.

Fusion had previously criticised the Bedford Independent for holding them to account with comprehensive and transparent reporting of the criticism aimed at them.

Read: Fusion moans media are “unfair” when reporting on their running of Bedford’s leisure facilities

Our coverage has shown that we will make sure that the voices of local people are heard. We have even helped force a U-turn over a decision to cancel popular cricket league bookings at one of their centres.

Read: Howzat! Good news for Bedford clubs as Fusion u-turn

You can read all of our balanced coverage about Fusion here.

Additional reporting by
John Guinn, Local Democracy Reporter

 


 


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