How Reading’s leisure entrepreneur is benefiting the surveyed public

Thousands of pounds of additional investment in swimming pools and leisure centers has been approved by councilors in Reading.

But questions have been raised over the benefits of the council’s leisure services contractor, GLL, which trades as ‘Best’.

Audience member Mr Wellum asked what targeted work GLL was doing to “reach those most in need” and “work to reduce health inequities” – the stated goals of the contract GLL agreed to in July last year.

Adele Barnet-Ward, Senior Leisure Advisor, said GLL currently offers 12-week adult weight management courses, swimming lessons for people with special educational needs and disabilities – which did not exist. before the GLL contract.

In addition, it offers healthy walks, a physical activity referral program and free memberships to 70 Ukrainian refugees.

She explained that free or discounted access to recreation centers was previously obtained through the Your Reading Passport (YRP) program, but these benefits were not targeted to those who needed them most.

However, GLL continued to offer free swims to users of the old YRP program, with 1,943 free swims between April and June 2022.

READ MORE: Reading Leisure Center gym and studio upgrades complete

Mr Wellum also asked what kind of benefits the GLL contract has brought to Reading.

Cllr Barnet-Ward responded that GLL has presided over major improvements at Rivermead, Palmer Park, South Reading and Meadway Leisure Centres.

She said, “GLL continues to offer competitive and affordable membership and activity pricing.

“The board works continuously with GLL to improve services and regularly monitors GLL against a range of indicators to ensure quality of service.”

Membership prices vary, but average £28 per month for access to gyms, swimming and fitness lessons.

Mr Wellum’s questions came at a Reading Borough Council policy committee meeting on Wednesday September 21, where councilors gave the go-ahead for a total of £331,000 in improvements.

£295,000 of this will be used to upgrade the swimming pool and create new wet and dry changing rooms for the South Reading Leisure Centre.

READ MORE: Huge upgrades to South Reading Leisure Center complete

Cllr Micky Leng (Labour, Whitley) commented: “I see this as good news.

“My family uses the South Reading pool and it’s very important to the people of Whitley in particular.

“My wife, she has osteoarthritis, she goes swimming up there during the day. She recently increased her swim rate to 24 up and down, so that’s been good for her.

” It is vital. Plus, we’re all singing, all dancing, about the new pools that are going to be opened. But we will continue to invest in existing pools, I think that’s important too.

Meanwhile, Palmer Park will benefit from £36,000 to improve wayfinding so that visually impaired people can easily access the centre.

Councilors have also accepted £1.5million from Sport England to help cover the costs of upgrading the leisure center – of which £1million will go to Rivermead and £500,000 to Palmer Park.

The upgrades and payments were unanimously approved.


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Richard V. Johnson