KA Leisure’s Interim CEO commends staff for their dedication and commitment and confirms the organisation is well on the road to recovery. 

(Interim) CEO of KA Leisure, Malcolm McPhail, spoke of the ‘incredible pride’ he has for KA Leisure staff, after attending North Ayrshire Council’s Cabinet meeting earlier this week.

At Tuesday’s meeting (Feb 22) Malcolm McPhail and the Senior Management Team: Colin Glencorse, Head of Operations and Customer Service and Laura Barrie, Head of Active Communities presented KA Leisure’s Performance and Impact Report which was approved by North Ayrshire Council Cabinet.

The Performance and Impact Report (2022/23) builds upon and accelerates many of the strategic themes incorporated within the Recovery and Renewal Strategy (2021/22) and highlights current performance, achievements and progress to date. In addition, it incorporates the 2022/23 budget, which has been developed in partnership with North Ayrshire Council.

Despite what are arguably the most uncertain times for many decades, KA Leisure continues to make good progress in executing the Recovery and Renewal Strategy and delivering against the milestones endorsed by KA Leisure Board of Directors and North Ayrshire Council.

Malcolm McPhail said: “I’m proud of the resilience and adaptability that our organisation has shown during this difficult period. The unrelenting focus on supporting our customers, communities and each other has been incredible. I can’t emphasise enough how hard our staff, volunteers and the entire KA community have worked to support each other.”

The performance information contained within the report reflects the direct impact of the pandemic on operational activity and changing customer demand and behaviour. A number of activity areas have been more directly impacted due to restrictions, therefore, patterns of demand have shifted significantly across the last year.

However, an encouraging start to 2022 is already being demonstrated. Across core delivery areas, positive increases in attendances are being recorded.  Prior to the pandemic, fitness activity accounted for over 1.5 million visits per annum and 55% of overall customer visits. Currently fitness membership targets are being exceeded which is very encouraging and crucial for future financial sustainability.

Despite the significant challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the organisation has adapted, innovated and the lifting of restrictions has provided new confidence that the difficulties presented can be overcome. Several activities are now achieving pre-pandemic performance levels. This includes golf, ice, and sports pitches.

Encouraging and keeping people active remains KA Leisure’s primary goal but Covid-19 has impacted how that can be done.  It has reinforced the importance of using physical activity to improve public health, support underlying health conditions and engage with communities.

The Health & Wellbeing Service is one of the key ways people across North Ayrshire will continue to be supported. One of the organisation’s objectives is to engage with priority groups which includes people who are vulnerable, isolated and at greatest risk of inactivity. The importance of early intervention was emphasised within the report. By providing the right support at the right time, ensures specific health conditions including long-term conditions can be supported and can improve mental health and wellbeing.

For example, ‘Doorstep visits’ were created to offer one-to-one support to vulnerable and frail people in the community who are at risk of a fall, so they can continue to live independently. The ‘Walk for Health’ programme was also developed during the pandemic to encourage use of the fantastic green spaces North Ayrshire has to offer and to support people to remain active.

And as part of their approach to support health and wellbeing they opened the Bridgegate Active Zone and Health and Wellbeing Hub, Irvine, in May 2021. This holistic community-based Hub will aid people’s recovery following the pandemic by offering a range of physical activity opportunities and health and wellbeing initiatives for all ages. 

In addition, ‘Inspire’ KA Leisure’s new Junior membership scheme launched in November 2021. This provides opportunities for children and young people to experience sporting activities, arts, drama, dance and music, swimming, skating and golf. 

KA Leisure’s Performance and Impact Report also acknowledges that the long-term aim to support a transition from traditional leisure services to community focused health and wellbeing services is their future vision. Building upon the well-established, sector leading, Health and Wellbeing Service and the work already completed to realign the workforce will ensure that they remain innovative, engaging and successful.  

Malcolm McPhail was appointed (Interim) CEO of KA Leisure in July 2021, and has a tremendous track record in business and sport, operating at board level for the last 15 years.

He said: “I’m incredibly proud of all the staff and I’d like to thank them for their ongoing dedication, hard work, and continued enthusiasm through challenging times. They have achieved incredible things to help our ongoing recovery and renewal. 

“We do, however, recognise the need to remain focused on two key aims concurrently: To be financially sustainable through the pandemic and to optimise our future contribution to the health and wellbeing of North Ayrshire Communities. 

“We’re also very grateful for the council’s continued support and our many wonderful partners.”

North Ayrshire Council Leader Joe Cullinane said: “The leisure sector suffered hugely during the pandemic and lockdown but we’re delighted to see KA Leisure show a strong recovery.

“We were pleased to be able to provide financial support over the last two turbulent years as KA Leisure is a vital partner in community health and wellbeing.  Credit must go to everyone at KA Leisure for showing innovation and determination to ensure they continue to provide activities and services to the people of North Ayrshire.”

KA Leisure continues to work in partnership with North Ayrshire Council to improve their financial resilience during the current financial and are grateful for their continued support and guidance.