The Council had a strategy in terms of the procurement processes to be pursued for both the construction and operator contracts. For the operation of the Plymouth Life Centre the Council decided that as a result of the outline business case, that the new facility should be managed by an external operator primarily to access NNDR and possibly VAT benefits available to certain operators. The contract and procurement process also included all council leisure facilities.
This was important as there was a need to secure a long-term sustainable solution to the revenue aspects of the project.
To achieve this, the Council decided that due to the importance of the new facility that the most appropriate route for the procurement of a new operator would be via the Competitive Dialogue Procedure (CDP). This process would allow for dialogue with the potential operators to fine tune the operation and would ensure that the successful operator would completely understand the Council's vision for the service.
The process was long and resource hungry with the Council appointing specialist consultants (Strategic Leisure) and external legal advisers to assist them with the process. A number of stages were identified and after the selection of a shortlist of operators, dialogue meetings were had with each shortlisted company over a number of months in order to fine tune their solution for service delivery. Each stage was evaluated against set criteria and the shortlist reduced at each stage.
The selection of the preferred bidder was as a result of Final Tenders being received from two bidders SERCO Leisure and SLM. SLM were selected as the preferred bidder for a ten-year contract to manage the Plymouth Life Centre.
The process from the original decision in 2005 to completion of the build and handover to the new external operator will have taken nearly 7 years. Whilst this seems a long time, consideration need to be given to the development of initial feasibility, coordination of all stakeholders, the development of the outline business case and facility strategy, the twin tracked procurement process (Build and Operator), the complexity of the largest leisure centre build outside the Olympic site and that because all facilities (except those that closed as part of the new facility development) will transfer to the new operator.
Because all facilities were to transfer this had its own complexities as it meant the coordination of the transfer of staff from 4 organisations into one new organisation, three leisure trusts and PCC's leisure staff.
The operator procurement process, due to the use of CDP, took longer than anticipated as each stage had to be developed, evaluated and refined. The overall process from advert to award took approximately 24 months i.e. from April 2009 to April 2011.