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Taking care of business at Orford Park
3:30pm Friday 29th June 2012 in News
WITH the visit of the Queen, the arrival of the Olympic torch and the celebration of the Orford Festival, it is unlikely to have escaped notice that the new Orford Park centre is now open for business.
What is probably less well known is that the management of all of the council’s leisure services has changed too.
No longer are the town’s leisure centres and libraries run by Warrington Borough Council.
Instead a new trust, Live Wire, has been set up to manage the service.
And those in charge believe it will safeguard the future of leisure centres in Warrington at a time when many across the country are closing.
Alan Yates, a former head teacher at Great Sankey High School, is the board chairman of Live Wire.
“In the current economic climate, this is a very brave decision by the council to build Orford Park.” he said.
“We are now committed to getting an Orford Park in every part of Warrington.”
According to Jan Souness, the new chief executive of Live Wire, by breaking free from local authority control, money generated by the success of Orford Park can be reinvested more quickly in the other leisure centres in town.
She added: “We can take advantage of tax exemptions and be more flexible to explore new opportunities more quickly.”
The trust though has to reinvest the money it makes – so the onus is on the people who work there to make sure it is a success.
“If we want to keep these services, we need to look at running them in a different way,” she explained.
The board will meet in public and the accounts will also be made public once a year.
THE success of three major events being staged at the park within the first four weeks of its opening has made bosses eager for more.
And with plenty more on offer for 2013, plans are already in place to make it just as special as 2012.
Jan Souness said: “There won’t be a torch every year but we don’t want this just to be about 2012.
“We have the Rugby League World Cup next year and we have plenty planned for that.”
Paul Taylor owns Taylor Business Park in Risley and is also a board member and is involved with the Cheshire Business Leaders group.
He says centres like Orford will help put Warrington on the regional map.
THE model at Orford Park – where a surgery, leisure centre and library exist under the same roof – has already been successfully tried in Woolston.
And Jan Souness says it proves popular with residents.
She added: “People can come to the surgery or the library and will ask about the leisure centre. It is a model we know does work.”
Dianne Clarke is health and wellbeing manager based at Orford and has worked at a number of leisure centres in town.
She said the popularity of the new centre – which has seen hundreds of new members and thousands of visitors in the month since it opened – is already having an effect.
She added: “It can be quite intimidating in some ways for people to come into a gym.
“But what we have here is not just about structured exercise. We have walking groups through the park or smoking cessation. And when people get here, then we can talk to them and set up a programme.”