Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Lee Valley Leisure Trust Ltd

Subject: Lee Valley Regional Park Authority Update
Date: 7 February 2014 12:19:20 GMT

I am writing to inform you that the Board of Lee Valley Regional Park Authority is considering a change to its operational model as part of a review of how it can utilise public funds as effectively as possible to ensure that the Regional Park remains a fantastic destination and an asset for the region.

On 27 January, the Authority’s Board reduced the levy for 2014/15 by 2%. This reduction means that over the past five years we have cut the levy – which forms part of the council tax paid by residents of London, Essex and Hertfordshire – by 25% in real terms. It is now at the same level as it was in 2006, at £1.03 per head of population per annum and is less than half the maximum we are allowed to charge.

We are, of course, very aware of the pressures our contributing authorities are under and for the first time ever, LVRPA has this year managed to raise more funding from our own activities – admission fees, commercial income, investments – than we have raised through the levy.

It is in response to the prevailing financial situation facing local authorities and as part of our aspiration for the Lee Valley Regional Park to be a world class visitor destination that a new operational model is being considered. This has been given additional impetus as we look to reduce our liability for additional business rates for our two new Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park legacy venues.

The rates bill for these – Lee Valley VeloPark and Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre – is estimated to be £1.5 million, giving the Authority a total rates bill of over £2.5 million. In 2014/15 we will be operating at a substantial deficit, met from reserves, but we can only fund this arrangement for one year. The rates bill equates to approximately 10% of our gross budget and around 20% of the money we raise from the levy. We could legally raise this extra money by increasing the levy by 21%, but in the current financial climate with our precepted Boroughs having to manage significant budget reductions, this is not seen as a realistic option.

On 27 February our Board will be considering entering into a contract with a new Trust, Lee Valley Leisure Trust Limited, for the management of our sport and leisure venues, particularly our London 2012 legacy venues, enabling us to receive mandatory 80% rate relief. This is a model many local authorities have used.

The Authority is legally entitled to pursue such an option under the Lee Valley Regional Park Act 1966 which led to the creation of Lee Valley Regional Park. The Act stipulates that the Authority can exercise its remit to provide leisure, sport and recreation, including nature conservation either by itself or by acting in partnership with other individuals or bodies.

This is already an important part of the Authority’s approach to how it runs the Regional Park with a number of third party bodies delivering various services. For example, our parklands are maintained by a contractor through one of the most cost effective contracts of its type in the UK.

If the intention to manage the Authority’s venues through the Lee Valley Leisure Trust is agreed by our Board in February then the market will be notified through a Contract Award Notice. Through this operational model our aim is to gain a full understanding of the business models for our new and complex legacy venues in particular. Within 3-5 years we plan to go through a full procurement exercise with a long term management contract the objective.

A final decision on awarding a contract to the Lee Valley Leisure Trust is expected to be taken by the Authority Board in June 2014. However, at the moment  we are still discussing how the Trust may function, precisely what it might be responsible for and the nature of its relationship with the Authority. In addition to securing mandatory rate relief the Trust model also brings other financial benefits relating to VAT.

This is an important issue for the Authority and I would welcome your views which can be sent to future@leevalleypark.org.uk ahead of the 27 February Board meeting, or later as they will be considered ahead of other monthly meetings of our Executive Committee and right up until the final decision in June.

Whilst a new operating model is currently a major focus for the Authority, we are pursuing a range of other initiatives to further maximise income from our London 2012 venues and other sites around the Park. The focus here is on further investment in our sport and leisure facilities and commercial income through sponsorship and other ventures. Over the next six months the Authority will develop a business strategy which will provide the detail of the projects and initiatives it will be pursuing over the next few years.

With around 5 million visits per year from across London, Essex, Hertfordshire and further afield, Lee Valley Regional Park is a popular and unique destination offering a mix of sport, nature and leisure activities. The Authority is playing a leading role in delivering Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and a London 2012 legacy – projects of national importance, and we have guaranteed the future of three London 2012 legacy venues which we own and will operate within our current levy policy.

We are committed to ensuring that Lee Valley Regional Park continues to deliver genuine benefits for all communities in the most financially efficient way possible.

Derrick Ashley
Chairman
Lee Valley Regional Park Authority
Myddelton House, Bulls Cross, Enfield, Middlesex EN2 9HG
Telephone: 01992 717711 Fax: 01992 788623

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