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Jen Holland

Edinburgh Council will have a £143m budget shortfall by 2028/29 and so must find ways to become more efficient


What appealed to you about the new role?
Having recently worked in the health and social care sector, I wholeheartedly believe in the critical role physical activity can play in improving health and wellbeing outcomes. Going forward, I see the sector as a critical partner in delivering improved outcomes in terms of the health needs of our population.

If we moved the whole system around to thinking about prevention and early intervention, we could have a huge impact on social care and health demand. I’d love to bring that change about.

It starts at a young age and requires us to remove the barriers to sport and physical activity, as well as building communities.

I strongly believe in the positive impact sport and physical activity can have for everyone and I’m passionate about creating opportunities for everyone to get and stay active.

What’s your background?
I’m a qualified accountant and from 2019 was the director of strategic commissioning and partnerships at Scottish Borders Council. Previous to that, I worked with various public sector and charity organisations, including Fife Cultural Trust, NHS Fife and Live Borders.

What are the main challenges?
The biggest challenges facing Edinburgh Leisure are being felt across the whole sector – public sector funding cuts against a backdrop of increasing demand for wider services to meet the changing health and wellbeing landscape, not to mention the need to invest in facilities to ensure they meet the demand of modern users.

Going forward, we need to shout about what we’re doing to tackle inequalities and get people active and living longer in better health. That’s a key part of what leisure trust outcomes are, which often isn’t recognised.

Tell us about Active Communities
The Active Communities programme supports 10,000 people a year to get active. There are specific programmes for different demographics: older adults, including Steady Steps for falls prevention, as well as people on low incomes – including children who have lived in care. It also welcomes children and young people, people living with disabilities, with concessionary rates and carers coming free and programmes to boost mental wellness – including supporting people with dementia.

What are some of the opportunities?
The Active Communities programme will be critical for us moving forward, so I want to do more to champion it. We need to ensure we’re at the table and talking collaboratively about the outcomes we want for this city and how we can support the agenda. We have so many programmes to help people live well, so ultimately prevention and early intervention reduces the need to access NHS or other public services.

There’s also an opportunity to work directly with acute services: hospitals have seen an unprecedented increase in demand and we need to start working more collaboratively with colleagues in the NHS to help reduce this demand.

We also need to harness the data available to lobby effectively, so decision-makers are fully informed about the benefits of physical activity.

The City of Edinburgh has just launched a draft Physical Activity and Sport Strategy to continue the work of reducing inequalities and is currently asking residents for their feedback in order to prioritise spending. Edinburgh Council will have a £143m budget shortfall in by 2028/29 and so must find ways to become more efficient, reduce costs and raise more money, or it may have to reduce or stop providing some services, so it’s important that residents influence these decisions.

The demand for Edinburgh Leisure is really high, so we need to continue with community engagement, marketing campaigns and collaboration to ensure we’re meeting the needs of the people of Edinburgh.

In terms of our estate, we've created a team to look at sustainability and ways to move towards Net Zero.

What trends are you seeing at the moment?
There is a lot of interest in sociable sports, such as pickleball. We offer this at a few of our centres, mainly during the day, by lowering the nets on our badminton courts.

Padel tennis is also on our agenda and we’re looking at opportunities for that and considering other new trends and our response for the future, including Hyrox.

Golf is another area of growth. It was declining pre-COVID, but is on the up now, so we see that as a huge opportunity. We have six courses and are looking at opportunities around coaching, development and adding technology, such as simulated driving ranges.

With £100,000 from SportScotland, we’re upgrading the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena at Ratho, with new bouldering facilities, which will improve opportunities to progress at all levels of the sport.

The redevelopment will make Ratho the only climbing centre in the UK with Olympic-standard facilities for all three climbing disciplines: lead climbing, speed climbing and bouldering.

Edinburgh Leisure operates more than 50 venues across the city

• 17 gym venues, hosting 750+ fitness classes and 250+ gym classes per week

• Royal Commonwealth Pool

• Meadowbank Sports Centre – that opened in 2022, replacing a facility which had previously hosted the Commonwealth Games

• 12 swimming pools including five Victorian baths. Edinburgh’s last remaining Victorian Turkish Baths

• 32 indoor and outdoor tennis courts

• 141 sports pitches

• Three soft play areas

• Europe’s largest climbing arena

• Six golf courses

• Community access to sports facilities and room hire at the city’s 23 high schools

Membership costs (per month):

• Climb membership: £54.50

• Climb and fitness: £77.50

• Full fitness: £59.99

• Fitness class: £45.99

• Gym only: £39.99

• Under 18s memberships: £14.99

• Young adult 18-24: £29.99

• Swim: £45.99

• Soft play: £18.99

• Annual golf season ticket: £588.50

• Golf bolt on: £34.25

Supporting refugees and migrants

Supporting access to all populations is an important part of Edinburgh Leisure’s work. In 2018, the Relocated People Access Programme was created in partnership with the City of Edinburgh Council’s Refugee and Migration team to support relocated individuals new to Edinburgh.

Since April 2023, Edinburgh Leisure has supported 1,192 refugees to be active and there have been 19,502 visits to Edinburgh Leisure activities, with referral rates peaking in 2022.

In recognition of the high numbers of refugees accessing Edinburgh Leisure services and the contribution the programme was making to the refugees’ wellbeing, the City of Edinburgh Council awarded Edinburgh Leisure £100,000 for the programme in 2022-23 and 2023-24.

Edinburgh leisure has 17 gyms in the city Credit: photo: Edinburgh Leisure / Chris Watt Photography
Young people should not face any barriers of participation Credit: photo: Edinburgh Leisure / Chris Watt Photography
A full adult fitness membership costs £59.99 per month Credit: photo: Edinburgh Leisure / Chris Watt Photography
Credit: photo: Edinburgh Leisure / Chris Watt Photography
Targeting prevention and could have a huge impact on health and social care Credit: photo: Edinburgh Leisure / Chris Watt Photography
 


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SELECTED ISSUE
Health Club Management
2024 issue 4

View issue contents

Leisure Management - Jen Holland

HCM People

Jen Holland


Edinburgh Council will have a £143m budget shortfall by 2028/29 and so must find ways to become more efficient

New CEO Jen Holland is also a qualified accountant photo: Edinburgh Leisure
Edinburgh leisure has 17 gyms in the city photo: Edinburgh Leisure / Chris Watt Photography
Young people should not face any barriers of participation photo: Edinburgh Leisure / Chris Watt Photography
A full adult fitness membership costs £59.99 per month photo: Edinburgh Leisure / Chris Watt Photography
photo: Edinburgh Leisure / Chris Watt Photography
Targeting prevention and could have a huge impact on health and social care photo: Edinburgh Leisure / Chris Watt Photography

What appealed to you about the new role?
Having recently worked in the health and social care sector, I wholeheartedly believe in the critical role physical activity can play in improving health and wellbeing outcomes. Going forward, I see the sector as a critical partner in delivering improved outcomes in terms of the health needs of our population.

If we moved the whole system around to thinking about prevention and early intervention, we could have a huge impact on social care and health demand. I’d love to bring that change about.

It starts at a young age and requires us to remove the barriers to sport and physical activity, as well as building communities.

I strongly believe in the positive impact sport and physical activity can have for everyone and I’m passionate about creating opportunities for everyone to get and stay active.

What’s your background?
I’m a qualified accountant and from 2019 was the director of strategic commissioning and partnerships at Scottish Borders Council. Previous to that, I worked with various public sector and charity organisations, including Fife Cultural Trust, NHS Fife and Live Borders.

What are the main challenges?
The biggest challenges facing Edinburgh Leisure are being felt across the whole sector – public sector funding cuts against a backdrop of increasing demand for wider services to meet the changing health and wellbeing landscape, not to mention the need to invest in facilities to ensure they meet the demand of modern users.

Going forward, we need to shout about what we’re doing to tackle inequalities and get people active and living longer in better health. That’s a key part of what leisure trust outcomes are, which often isn’t recognised.

Tell us about Active Communities
The Active Communities programme supports 10,000 people a year to get active. There are specific programmes for different demographics: older adults, including Steady Steps for falls prevention, as well as people on low incomes – including children who have lived in care. It also welcomes children and young people, people living with disabilities, with concessionary rates and carers coming free and programmes to boost mental wellness – including supporting people with dementia.

What are some of the opportunities?
The Active Communities programme will be critical for us moving forward, so I want to do more to champion it. We need to ensure we’re at the table and talking collaboratively about the outcomes we want for this city and how we can support the agenda. We have so many programmes to help people live well, so ultimately prevention and early intervention reduces the need to access NHS or other public services.

There’s also an opportunity to work directly with acute services: hospitals have seen an unprecedented increase in demand and we need to start working more collaboratively with colleagues in the NHS to help reduce this demand.

We also need to harness the data available to lobby effectively, so decision-makers are fully informed about the benefits of physical activity.

The City of Edinburgh has just launched a draft Physical Activity and Sport Strategy to continue the work of reducing inequalities and is currently asking residents for their feedback in order to prioritise spending. Edinburgh Council will have a £143m budget shortfall in by 2028/29 and so must find ways to become more efficient, reduce costs and raise more money, or it may have to reduce or stop providing some services, so it’s important that residents influence these decisions.

The demand for Edinburgh Leisure is really high, so we need to continue with community engagement, marketing campaigns and collaboration to ensure we’re meeting the needs of the people of Edinburgh.

In terms of our estate, we've created a team to look at sustainability and ways to move towards Net Zero.

What trends are you seeing at the moment?
There is a lot of interest in sociable sports, such as pickleball. We offer this at a few of our centres, mainly during the day, by lowering the nets on our badminton courts.

Padel tennis is also on our agenda and we’re looking at opportunities for that and considering other new trends and our response for the future, including Hyrox.

Golf is another area of growth. It was declining pre-COVID, but is on the up now, so we see that as a huge opportunity. We have six courses and are looking at opportunities around coaching, development and adding technology, such as simulated driving ranges.

With £100,000 from SportScotland, we’re upgrading the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena at Ratho, with new bouldering facilities, which will improve opportunities to progress at all levels of the sport.

The redevelopment will make Ratho the only climbing centre in the UK with Olympic-standard facilities for all three climbing disciplines: lead climbing, speed climbing and bouldering.

Edinburgh Leisure operates more than 50 venues across the city

• 17 gym venues, hosting 750+ fitness classes and 250+ gym classes per week

• Royal Commonwealth Pool

• Meadowbank Sports Centre – that opened in 2022, replacing a facility which had previously hosted the Commonwealth Games

• 12 swimming pools including five Victorian baths. Edinburgh’s last remaining Victorian Turkish Baths

• 32 indoor and outdoor tennis courts

• 141 sports pitches

• Three soft play areas

• Europe’s largest climbing arena

• Six golf courses

• Community access to sports facilities and room hire at the city’s 23 high schools

Membership costs (per month):

• Climb membership: £54.50

• Climb and fitness: £77.50

• Full fitness: £59.99

• Fitness class: £45.99

• Gym only: £39.99

• Under 18s memberships: £14.99

• Young adult 18-24: £29.99

• Swim: £45.99

• Soft play: £18.99

• Annual golf season ticket: £588.50

• Golf bolt on: £34.25

Supporting refugees and migrants

Supporting access to all populations is an important part of Edinburgh Leisure’s work. In 2018, the Relocated People Access Programme was created in partnership with the City of Edinburgh Council’s Refugee and Migration team to support relocated individuals new to Edinburgh.

Since April 2023, Edinburgh Leisure has supported 1,192 refugees to be active and there have been 19,502 visits to Edinburgh Leisure activities, with referral rates peaking in 2022.

In recognition of the high numbers of refugees accessing Edinburgh Leisure services and the contribution the programme was making to the refugees’ wellbeing, the City of Edinburgh Council awarded Edinburgh Leisure £100,000 for the programme in 2022-23 and 2023-24.


Originally published in Health Club Management 2024 issue 4

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