20 Jan 2009

Stratford Park: cleaner but a way to go

Once again I am getting behind with reports re meetings - last Thursday was the Performance and Audit Overview and Scrutiny Committee and many exciting items like General Revenue Fund Estimates, Capital Programme, Budget proposals, Housing Revenue Account, Corporate Delivery Plan and much more - you can see all that on the webcast and in Council papers....

Photo: I went swimming Saturday for first time in ages and was pleased to see it clean although I reported one shower not working - apparently the parts are on order to repair.

One other item was Stratford Park Leisure Centre - an issue several people have contacted me about - we monitor performance every 6 months. Numerous issues came up - I, a long time ago, raised the need for a pool cover and a Green Travel Plan - I got confirmation the pool cover would come in April - the Travel Plan is moving ahead but a little slow - there are hopes for working closer with Stagecoach but cycle facilities have still not happened. More needs to be done on that.

In terms of customer service and cleanliness. One councillor considered the reception of Stratford Park to not be a welcoming entrance - saying "it's not something that excites me. The first impression you get in any business is when you walk in the door. Your priority should be that every person gets a greeting and a smile."

Kieran Sinton, who returned to the centre as manager to improve standards, seemed to accept the comments and also noted the improvements. He said: "We are undertaking additional staff training to ensure customers do get a positive and warm welcome. We are undertaking mystery visits by our users forum to highlight different issues that maybe we don't see."

Parkwood Leisure manages the centre for the district council and its contract beyond 2011 is due for consideration soon. Members on the Performance and audit overview and scrutiny committee members acknowledged Mr Sinton had made many improvements to the centre but more work needed to be done.

Photo: Citizen before Christmas highlighting the survey

The most recent survey of 198 Stratford Park Leisure Centre users, showed 79% were "fairly" or "very" satisfied with cleanliness of changing rooms. However, nine per cent were "very" dissatisfied and another nine per cent "fairly" dissatisfied.

At the meeting we heard that the past 18 months has seen a dramatic improvement in cleanliness. Indeed a deep clean was carried out last year. Some councillors seemed to be blaming customers for bringing the dirt in - but as Cllr Sarah Lunnon (Green), said it's not good enough. "Can we blame the public for making a place dirty that is open to the public? Kieran Sinton promised a massive improvement in cleaning, and there was. But it does not seem to have been kept up. The wet changing rooms are a running sore on the people of Stroud. People don't want to go there because of the yuk factor. There is still a way to go before we pat each other on the back."

The meeting confirmed April will see the free swim sessions starting for over 60s and over a 100 people have now had GP referrals to Stratford Park - this seems to be a good scheme. All in all we are very fortunate to have such a great centre in Stroud. See webcast for more details here.

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