It has become increasingly clear to me that the Liberal Democrats on Haringey Council have been too fast to talk our area down and too slow to put together an alternative sensible, strategic and relevant policy platform for local people as we fight against this Tory government.
Park Road Leisure Centre is one of four local leisure centres in Haringey. It is well used and valued by a large number of residents in Crouch End, which is why in 2014 we made improving it one of our five key election pledges. Two years later, over £8million has been invested in the centre. Users can now benefit from:
- a modern fitness suite with state of the art equipment
- 4 new studios, including a dedicated indoor cycle studio
- 3 pools
- a brand new soft play area
- a refurbished lido
- a new cafe – Bickels Yard Food & Drink Company
- and improved facilities and access for disabled users
- Over-65s can use the gym facilities for free on weekdays between 9am-5pm.
However, despite the investment, many residents have told us that improvements still need to be made to the Centre, particularly in three key areas:
- Cleanliness and Hygiene: too often users find the changing rooms, toilets and swimming pools unacceptably dirty.
- Accessing the swimming pool and lido: due to the high number of lesson bookings, some users find it difficult to access the pools easily. The lido has also been closed on a number of occasions this summer, prompting concern about lifeguard provision at the centre. Some users have enquired about whether a ‘swimming only’ membership can be reinstated.
- Poor communication: users often struggle to get a response when they call the reception desk; the website’s booking system is ineffective; and the standard of professionalism from reception staff needs to improve, as they can sometimes appear as dismissive of users’ concerns.
Last week we met with council officers and managers from Fusion -a registered charity that works in partnership with Haringey Council to run the borough’s leisure centres. We shared your feedback, both on areas of strength and areas that require urgent improvement. Officers and managers have now provided responses on each of the three key areas of concern, outlining what currently happens and what will change:
1) Cleanliness and Hygiene
Cleanliness and hygiene levels are a key priority for the Park Road management team and more will be done to improve standards. Pool vacuuming has been introduced twice a week to deliver a higher standard of cleanliness, along with daily cleaning and maintenance regimes with regular backwashing.
The centre has 2 lifeguard teams – one for the inside pools one and for outside. Lifeguards for the outside pools rotate every 20/ 30 minutes. Once they have done a full rotation, they then commence site checks, checking the toilets and cubicles. This gets done every half an hour. When the lido closes at 1pm for an hour, centre staff will use that time to litter pick and scrub down the cubicles and showers.
The inside team rotate every 15 minutes and they will now walk through the inside changing rooms litter picking and cleaning where necessary. This will enable staff to check every 30 minutes the wet changing village and female and male changing areas. However if there are any issues, users are encouraged to raise this with the manager on duty in the first instance.
2) Accessing the swimming pool and lido
The Swimming Schools and Haringey Aquatics are protected bookings as they are fundamental to supporting the Council’s drive to increase participation and reach children whose families would not be able to afford private lessons. In terms of the current availability of the pools:
- General diving is available every day apart from Tuesday’s and Thursday’s and aqua is held 5 times a week.
- Causal swimming is available every day between 3pm-6pm. However, to compensate on week days the training pool is open in the day until just after 3pm to allow children to swim (apart from Fridays)
- Casual Swimming is available Weekends between 10am – 5.00p.m.
- School holidays – school swimming lessons are replaced with casual swimming throughout the day, with the addition of sea scooters and water walker sessions in the diving pools
However, council officers and Fusion recognise there is a shortage of water space in the borough and this adds to the pressure on Park Road Leisure Centre. It was therefore agreed that a separate meeting with local councillors would be held in September to have further discussion on pool timetabling and water space availability.
Managers and council officers are aware of the issue of the lido paint at Park Road, which results in the pool water becoming cloudy during periods of high use. It is a defect from the refurbishment that Fusion are managing at an operational level. This issue is likely to be fully resolved once they are able to drain the lido and re-paint it at the end of the summer season. In the meantime, Fusion are managing the visibility of the Lido water on a regular basis and the duty management team and lifeguards are trained to close the pool if they are unable to see peoples feet or the bottom of the pool.
Fusion are constantly reviewing our membership offering but by nature of the facility, it would be operationally challenging to facilitate a swim only membership due to accessibility of other facilities once in the centre.
When we review our requirements for our lifeguard provision for the lido this is risk assessed in accordance to HSG 179 guidance for swimming pool safety. With this in mind we are confident that we meet the requirements set out and have the correct volume of lifeguards to effectively manage the session type on the day.
3) Poor Communication
To assist with improving communication to customers, we now operate a communication board for customer that is present on reception. Managers were disappointed hear negative feedback in relation to the staff as it is their aim is to always give great customer service and are constantly training staff through our customer engagement programmes. More focus will be put in this area and the Management team are always keen to hear feedback, good or bad, so that this can be acted on.
The manager holds a “Meet the Manager” session every month. The timing of these varies to allow people that work to attend. Customers can discuss any issues that they have or give suggestions on improvements to the centre or things they would like to see change/implemented.
A new website for the leisure centre is due to go live this month. The new website will also link to Fusion’s internal booking system for increased functionality. It will automatically tell users if a class is full or if there is a space to book, and is more simple and easy to use. It will also be easier to search for a class and if users attend a class regularly, it will be saved on the homepage. The website will also allow the Centre to increase communication to customers with a live commentary on upcoming activities and any facilities that maybe affected on the day.
Fusion recognises that their telephone system needs significant improvement. Therefore they are currently reviewing the system to ensure that customers receive the correct information. This includes improving the automated system. Fusion are also revising the back office phone system to ensure all calls are answered, especially during peak times when reception may not be able to cope with the volume of calls coming through.
We will continue to work with council officers and Fusion managers to improve users’ experience at the centre. It’s important that Fusion and the Council build on the excellent facilities that exist following significant investment over the last two years. We will also work with officers to publish the Council’s targets for Fusion, so that there is greater transparency on the performance of the partnership.
If you have any further feedback, either positive or negative, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us (you can get our contact details by clicking on our names below).