COMMENT FROM OZ - MORE CLOUT NEEDED
Anyone charged with the responsibility of upholding health and safety regulations, as an integral part of their job, and fails to exercise that responsibility should be subject to prosecution and instant dismissal.
Any manager or operative who so consistently fails in their duty of care in relation to facility maintenance (to the extent that it endangers customer safety and wellbeing) should have their employment terminated.
Any public spirited person who is prepared to devote time and energy in drawing the attention of authorities to unsafe practices, inefficient management and ineffective operatives needs to be given more 'clout' than mere appointment as public representatives.
In your current difficulties these people are invaluable. Retain them as consultants. Money spent in (formally) obtaining their feedback would be an investment. And while this would only mean a slight adjustment to your business model, the payoff would be substantial.
Currently, it would seem, your well-paid staff are feral - a law unto themselves. Rein them in with a bit of simple and effective strategy - inject sound and reliable feedback into the equation. Make the feedback available to employees at all levels. Make 'action on feedback' central to the philosophy and function of their positions and watch your facilities become a centre of excellence - in every respect.
TO FUSION & SOUTHWARK COUNCIL WE ASK:
ARE WE BEING SERVED ?
The answer would seem to be NO.
The Public representatives of the Users Group at Peckham Pulse have serious concerns over the poor management of a very valuable and important facility in the Community.
There are serious reasons for believing that Southwark Council has either made a very bad contract with the amenities manager-Fusion- or that it is unwilling or unable to enforce it properly.
Over one weekend in June 2005, a petition concerning the Pulse and the gym in particular was created by concerned local residents. Alarmist press publicity followed in the usual vein – “Calamitous Peckham Pulse”, one paper bellowed. The petition organisers delivered the 800-signature protest to Cllr. Columba Blango on 27 June 2005 demanding action. The Council accepted that much needed to be done. Southwark News and the South London Press carried the story.
Things started badly when a public meeting to air grievances raised in the petition was organised by Gill Davies, Head of Sport & Leisure for the Council. In spite of her efforts to divert attention away from the management issues and on to the complex engineering issues that had resulted in the swimming pool closure, the public bombarded the Council team and the Fusion managers with the many issues that had long been unresolved.
Things improved shortly after, when they managed to rid the building of its cockroach infestation and Gill Davies decided to set up a regular Users Group meeting. These meetings are held more or less monthly with the intention of monitoring and improving the performance of Peckham Pulse, and are attended by Fusion contractors, representatives of the Council and the community representatives who had initially organised the petition.
Because they involve public expenditure they are minuted; a paper trail is essential - it is an auditing point. Indeed in early 2006 the Users Group raised this matter when they consulted the District Auditor about their concerns. VFM – value for money – is a guiding principal in local government.
The two members of the public co-opted onto the User Group, Rachel Clark and Jeff Davies, have between them attended every meeting and therefore have compiled a complete record of matters raised, minuted and fought for.
Here is a selection of matters that indicate poor management:
- It took two and a half years to get cleaning contractors to do a decent job, despite constant minuted comments by the Users Group and despite the Southwark Council contract manager who did not/could not enforce change.
- The quarterly newsletter, promised in August 2005 by Gill Davies, has never been distributed nor sent out to all on the membership database.
- Meet the Manager Meetings, i.e. Pulse manager, petered out. Probably because most users were unaware of the meetings. Those that did attend found that the promises made by the managers were never kept.
- Users Group meetings are minuted by Fusion but minutes are frequently not distributed to Group members prior to the next meeting.
- Public representatives at the Users Group report bullying by one manager (now gone); and one representative was accused of lying which was blatantly false and unsustainable.
- July 2007 minutes were requested eight times without success.
- In the Minutes for 10th June 2008 Users Group meeting, Greg Carris wrote: “…. They [Greg Carris and Wayne Warner] also confirmed how important user group meetings are and that feedback from members will play an important role in improving our services.
Greg also took an undertaking to ensure from now on the minutes from these meetings will be produced and sent out within seven days. The minutes will also contain deadlines, action points and who is responsible for the actions.”
- The most recent meeting minutes although promised within seven days had still not been received nine weeks later.
- The latest meeting was attended by no-one other than the two public representatives despite the fact that everyone had agreed the date and put it in their diaries. Those not in attendance were Greg Carris of Fusion, Jay Yeats & Tara Quinn of Southwark Council, Anthony Lynham of Andron, cleaning contractor.
- Swipecard entry system frequently does not function.
- Unbelievably loud inappropriate music and chat plays in the gym. (Sometimes it makes the emergency announcements inaudible)
- Rowing machines were not repaired because the company’s bills had not been paid.
- As many as half the lockers in the swimming pool area often have no key and some have no door.
- Sometimes there are no hairdryers at all in the swimming pool male changing room.
- Air conditioning is an ongoing problem in the gym; this can lead to heat exhaustion and collapse for those using the facility.
- Members complain that they get no response to their feedback forms. They conclude there is no point in complaining because nothing ever gets done.
Taken separately, these points may seem small. Taken together they add up to chronic management. Over a 3 year period, there have been five managers, and a considerable staff tunover at all levels, so lack of continuity is a contributing factor to the ongoing problems.
A well and professionally managed centre, staff actually in the gym, a panic button in the gym in case of accident or health alarm, repair to the faulty though brand new water machine, hair dryers for pool users, doors on lockers in the swimming pool area… are these hard to achieve ?
Sadly one comment heard in the centre by a member of the public was: “What do you expect, it’s only Peckham?” That is the level of expectation that Southwark has engendered.
It is time for a different approach and this is why the option of using the media has been taken, hence this article on the Southwark.TV website. More documents are available and may soon be published to build a fuller picture of inadequate service offered to the people of Southwark. But can one hope for satisfaction from the current regime?
Rachel Clark and Jeff Davies are now proposing to contact Sports England, Lord Coe, Tessa Jowell, Harriet Harman, and Members of the Council to beg for help in motivating those responsible for running this potentially excellent facility. Sadly, It appears that this poor management of a public leisure facility is not an isolated case and it is alarming that it is allowed to continue in this run-up to the Olympics in Britain. We spend millions on one high profile site for the Olympic event and ignore the poor provision of sports facilities used every day by the general public.
For the record, User Group Members are:
Rachel Clark, Jeff Davies – public representatives
Greg Carris, Southwark Contract Manager, Fusion Lifestyle
Jay Yeats, Southwark Council
Tara Quinn, Leisure Contracts & Facilities Manager, Leisure & Wellbeing, Environment & Housing, Southwark Council
Send an email if you would like to add your comments.