On 17 November in The MJ William Benson wrote about the creative solutions emerging to allow the leisure sector to thrive. His piece discussed the pros and cons of in-house management and third-party management by a leisure operator. However, there is another, third, way to effectively run leisure services, using a Local Authority Trading Company (LATCO) model.
This model has been a game-changer for Hounslow LBC, allowing it to enhance community health outcomes while maintaining a commercial approach. Transitioning from a traditional leisure service operator to a strategic partnership through Lampton Leisure has allowed leisure services to focus more on community needs and less on purely operational aspects.
William talked about the vital role leisure centres can play in health prevention and as hubs for the health and wellbeing of communities, citing fitness related examples. This is something the LATCO model has given us the freedom to progress quickly and effectively, moving firmly into the preventative and restorative health space, alongside traditional fitness and wellbeing activities.
Our Exercise on Referral programme, for instance, is a testament to our commitment to community health. This initiative, in collaboration with healthcare professionals, provides tailored exercise regimes for individuals referred by their doctors, effectively integrating fitness into healthcare. Becoming a physical health hub is also well underway. On 3 January we will be hosting a Health Action Day, bringing together charities and organisations based in Hounslow under one leisure centre roof, to showcase their offers to the community. This will help them to engage with new audiences face to face and work together to improve community health. This event symbolises our commitment to not only provide leisure services but also to be an active participant in promoting community health and wellness. The event is just the beginning as we have plans to build on the health hub model further and create a consistent service, working alongside the NHS. It also allows us to support our Healthy Hounslow partners.
Healthy Hounslow is an alliance that strengthens the network of support and resources available to Hounslow residents, enhancing overall health and well-being for the community. We have been awarded £500,000 by Public Health to continue the work we do, showcasing our ability to collaborate with other organisations for collective community health benefits.
The LATCO model has other tangible benefits too. Being a strategic partner rather than a service provider has allowed for the implementation of a digital transformation strategy for leisure services. We have incorporated online booking systems and virtual classes, offering flexibility and convenience and have overhauled our data-driven initiatives, enhancing customer experiences and operational success.
Our new model has given us the freedom to expand and diversify facilities and programmes to attract a wider range of users too, catering to a broad range of interests and fitness levels. It has hiring benefits too, helping us attract high calibre managers thanks to our commercial business model.
In conclusion, the LATCO model has enabled us to seamlessly integrate commercial viability with community health objectives, demonstrating that health and wellness can be both a public service and a sustainable business model. Our strategies in community engagement, digital transformation, and facility expansion, along with successful initiatives like the Exercise on Referral program and the Healthy Hounslow alliance, have already significantly enhanced community health outcomes in Hounslow and we are just getting started!
Rowland Omamor is managing director of Lampton Leisure