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The process of bringing Warrington’s leisure, library and lifestyles services back in-house is expected to begin, after Cabinet approved ‘insourcing’ proposals at its meeting of Monday 10 July.

The plan to insource - subject to testing the market - means the council will take direct control of LiveWire’s services, facilities and staff. This will ensure the ongoing delivery of these important welling services for Warrington’s communities in the future.

LiveWire has seen a significant loss of customer income and increasing financial pressures in recent years, a trend seen nationally across the leisure and fitness sector. This means it is no longer able to deliver these services on behalf of the council without significant financial subsidy support.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

What does insourcing actually mean?

In this case, insourcing, or bringing services back ‘in-house’, means that the council will be taking direct control of LiveWire’s services, facilities and staff.

Why is this happening?

The picture is very complex. Like the wider leisure sector, LiveWire has been under a lot of pressure due to legacy impacts of COVID, legislation changes to VAT and the allocation of subsidy grants, changing customer habits and the sheer cost of keeping services running. Heating swimming pools, for example, is far more expensive than it used to be, due to high energy prices that we have all seen through our own household bills. According to Community Leisure UK in February 2023, half of the UK’s community swimming pools face closure or service cuts due to increasing energy prices.

These challenges facing LiveWire make it extremely difficult for it to continue to deliver Warrington’s much-valued leisure, libraries and lifestyle services. It is for these reasons that we need to deliver these services in a different way, preserving them for residents into the future.

We are proud of the valuable work LiveWire has done in delivering first class leisure, libraries and lifestyles services over the past decade. Since its inception in 2012, the company has achieved a year-on-year increase in leisure participation, and this continued until the introduction of coronavirus restrictions.

It has consistently delivered good quality services, with key projects being recognised as a national and international exemplar of good practice.

The development of our community hubs has been particularly successful, bringing leisure, library, health and community services under the one roof, and leading the way on inclusion in areas such as physical accessibility and dementia friendly design. LiveWire has also done some fantastic work – through our borough-wide modernisation programme – to bring people back into our libraries.

We are proud of the exceptional work LiveWire colleagues have done since its inception in 2012, and are equally thankful for the strong and decisive leadership of its Board of Directors.

How long will the insourcing take?

We expect that the insourcing process will be quick – but orderly and well-managed. 

The insourcing target date is 1 March 2024.

Will the brand “LiveWire” remain?

We have no immediate plans to change the LiveWire brand.

The council confirmed its intention to “test the market”. What does this mean?

Following the previous Cabinet report in July 2023, a decision was made to carry out a procurement process to assess current market conditions, and to see if other operators could take over the existing LiveWire service model.

To ensure a meaningful test, a full, competitive procurement process was undertaken (‘Tender with Competitive Dialogue’).

However, linked to this, only one response to a pre-qualifying questionnaire was received. This does not sufficiently demonstrate that there is a competitive market that is able to deliver integrated leisure, libraries and lifestyle services in Warrington.

A Cabinet report in December 2023 therefore recommended to continue work to insource LiveWire services.

Will any LiveWire services be stopped or building/facilities closed down?

We have no immediate plans to close any services, facilities or buildings.

Our priority is to retain the current level of service for customers and staff. We will of course continue to review our libraries, leisure and lifestyle services post-transfer but will be very clear about any future changes, if any are made.

Will my current customer membership be affected?

No – we don’t expect your membership to change, other than be subject to the routine annual membership price review.

Will LiveWire employees’ jobs be safe?

Our priority is to ensure that current LiveWire services and facilities are brought in-house before the June 2024 deadline, and this will include working through a formal staff transfer - or TUPE - process with employees.

We are too early in the process to know with certainty what staffing structures will look like once teams are brought into council management. However, we are committed to working with staff and trade union colleagues through the TUPE process and we will have in place a clear and open dialogue with LiveWire employees throughout the transition period. 

Further information on issues such as staff pay, terms and conditions will be communicated directly with staff at the appropriate time.

How much will this cost the council?

We accept that more money will have to be spent to run LiveWire’s services in-house, as the money they have previously received hasn’t been enough to keep services running sustainably and some costs are higher if delivered by the Council rather than an external community interest company.

However, the alternative would be to close down facilities and stop running services – which is an option we are working hard to avoid, given we know how valuable LiveWire’s facilities are to our residents. Continuing to invest in proactive health and wellbeing intervention services, like the services being delivered by LiveWire, is important to help support healthy lifestyles, which in turn will contribute to longer-term public health improvements and a healthier population in Warrington.

A Cabinet report in December 2023 recommended approving a value of up to £4.1 million to be included in planning for future council budgeting (the ‘2024/25 Medium Term Financial Plan’) to account for the insourcing. It also acknowledges a total financial impact in 2023/24 of up to an estimated £5.3 million. This is linked to building maintenance service level agreements and Great Sankey Neighbourhood Hub rent, alongside other additional costs.

However, the report also demonstrates that the council is prepared to meet these costs, as it shows its continued commitment to leisure, library and lifestyle services.

Bewsey Dallam Hub
Livewire swimming pool
LiveWire public space