Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for Aura Customers

What is Aura Leisure & Libraries Limited?

Aura is a charitable, not-for-profit, organisation which, from 1 September 2017, is responsible for managing the majority of leisure centres and libraries previously operated directly by Flintshire County Council.

Aura is owned by its employees and operates for the benefit of local communities. The company’s legal model is a Community Benefit Society which means that any financial surplus generated is reinvested into facilities and services to improve the customer experience and to sustain and enhance the offer for future generations. As a charitable organisation, Aura benefits from National Non-Domestic Rates (NNDR) or business rates relief, together with VAT exemption for sporting services. This assists Aura to be financially viable.

Aura Leisure and Libraries Limited is registered under the Cooperative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014 (Registration No. 7610).

What is a Community Benefit Society?

What is Aura’s vision?

Aura aims to improve the quality of life for customers through the provision of popular culture and leisure opportunities that improve mental health and physical well-being.

A positive customer experience is at the heart of Aura’s culture, and is expressed through its five core values - Inspiring, Enjoyable, Quality, Professional and Enthusiastic - which are underpinned by four pillars of good service: People, Product, Communication and Leadership.

Who is leading and managing Aura?

Governance of Aura is provided by a Non-Executive (unpaid) Board which is made up of local professional people who have committed to volunteering their time as they are passionate about sustaining and improving local leisure centres, libraries and heritage displays.  There are no shareholders on the Board and no dividends are paid to anybody.  Since the company is employee-owned, a workforce representative (a non-management employee) also sits on the Board with the purpose of representing the views of all Aura employees.  The Board is responsible for agreeing the strategic vision of Aura and the senior management team and all employees are responsible for implementing it.

The senior management of Aura is provided by a team of five:

• Managing Director
• Finance & Commercial Manager
• Business Improvement & Performance Manager
• Leisure Development Manager
• Libraries Development Manager

Who are Aura’s employees?

Aura’s employees were previously employed by Flintshire County Council’s Leisure, Libraries & Heritage Services.  Under the ‘Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006’, more commonly referred to as TUPE, all contracted  employees transferred to Aura on 1 September 2017 on the same terms and conditions as previously with Flintshire County Council.

Is there a reward or bonus scheme for Aura employees?

Aura’s constitution states that the business of the company is to be conducted for the benefit of the community and not for the financial benefit of its members (employees).  Any financial surplus or ‘profit’ generated cannot be distributed amongst employees but can be used to invest in providing development opportunities for employees, alongside reinvestment in community buildings, services and maintaining prudent reserves.

Which buildings and services are now being managed by Aura?

Leisure Centres
Buckley Leisure Centre
Deeside Leisure Centre
Jade Jones Pavilion Flint
Mold Leisure Centre

Sports Centres
Connah’s Quay Sports Centre
Flint High School (community sports provision)
Hope Sports Centre
Saltney Sports Centre 

Libraries
Broughton Library (service only, not the building)
Buckley Library
Connah’s Quay Library
Deeside Library (based within Deeside Leisure Centre)
Flint Library
Holywell Library (service only within a shared building)
Mold Library
Mobile Library

Heritage Displays Buckley Museum (within Buckley Library)
Connah’s Quay heritage displays (within Connah’s Quay Library)
Mold Museum (within Mold Library)

Services Inspection of Children’s Play Areas and Multi-Use Games Areas
(not including those that transfer to the local community as part
of FCC’s Community Asset Transfer programme)
National Exercise Referral Scheme
Sports Development

What role does Flintshire County Council now have regarding these leisure centres and library buildings and what relationship does the Council have with Aura?

The transfer of the management of these buildings and services from Flintshire County Council to Aura Leisure and Libraries Limited DOES NOT represent ‘privatisation’ or the ‘externalisation’ of services to the highest bidder.

Flintshire County Council believes that this innovative new approach and outlook provides the best opportunity for popular, but non-statutory, services to be retained and enhanced for residents both now and in the future.  The Council recognises that Aura, a charitable, not-for-profit, employee-owned Community Benefit Society, is committed to delivering high quality, customer-focused services in a way that is financially viable and sustainable.  This is imperative during the current period of extended public sector austerity.

The relationship between Aura and the Council is one of partnership and collaboration.  Whilst both parties have entered into a three-year funding agreement for the management of leisure, libraries and heritage services, ownership of the building assets will remain with Flintshire County Council.  Aura’s Board and senior management team is working closely with the Council to jointly identify the most cost effective means to invest in our building stock.  Aura was successful with a bid into the Council’s 2017/18 capital programme and has received £442k to address the priority works identified in the 2016 building condition surveys.  The Council also awarded a further £487k from its capital programme fund in 2017/18 for improvement works to children’s play areas and artificial turf pitches.  Aura will have the opportunity to make further bids into the Council’s capital funding programme in subsequent years.

Both Aura and the Council are committed to improving the customer experience in our buildings.  We will continue to work collaboratively in finding solutions to capital investment with both parties recognising that an ongoing, phased approach to capital funding is more appropriate and manageable in the current financial climate.

Will Aura reduce building opening times and increase prices for using leisure centres and libraries Aura?

Aura will continually evaluate the operation of all of its facilities and services just as any well-managed ‘business’ does.  However, it is important that everything Aura operates performs to its optimum level in terms of customer needs and expectations.  The driver for the establishment of Aura was the long-term sustainability of popular services and, by adopting an entrepreneurial outlook and a more proactive response to the market, it is envisaged that these valued discretionary services will be maintained and enhanced for Flintshire residents.

The County Council recognises that in order for Leisure, Libraries & Heritage services to continue to fulfil their role as major contributors to the Council’s corporate priorities, it is imperative that, in the future, they are able to operate in an environment that provides the greatest opportunity to grow and develop core products and functions and to realise efficiencies.

Aura’s strategy is to maximise income from the more commercial elements of its operation (through increased participation and smarter, customer-focused opening hours) and to use this additional income to support those non-commercial activities and services that make a significant contribution to its own vision and the Council’s priorities.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for Sports Clubs & Voluntary Groups

Aura has developed guidelines to accommodate sports clubs and voluntary groups that hire its facilities on a block booking basis.

What will sports clubs be required to do to retain their reduction on the published hire charge?
  1. The ‘school, club, association or an organisation representing affiliated clubs or constituent associations’ will be required to provide evidence that it is properly constituted.
    How does my club become properly constituted?
  2. For junior coached sessions, the named hirer on the block booking form will be responsible for ensuring that ALL coaches participating in the sessions have appropriate Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS) clearance and coaching qualifications.
  3. Sports clubs and voluntary groups that meet the above criteria will be entitled to receive a ‘Club Discount Rate’ with a reduction on the published Price List for sporting activities only.
  4. Customers seeking to receive the ‘Club Discount Rate’ will be required to commit to the hire of the facility for a minimum of 10 bookings over a minimum 12 weeks and will not receive any refund for sessions cancelled on their own part.
  5. Block bookings will be reviewed and re-booked on an annual basis (as opposed to the current ‘rolling over’ procedure).
If additional facilities are hired within the minimum 12-week block booking period do they also qualify for the club discount rate?

Two examples: one, a badminton club block booking hiring additional badminton courts (the same facility within one building) for extra training; and, two, a swimming club block booking hiring a sports hall (a different facility within the same building) for extra land-based training.

Customers seeking to receive the ‘Club Discount Rate’ will be required to satisfy the requirements of Question 1 (items i to v) above and any single or short term bookings (less than 12 weeks) will be charged at the full published tariff price.

Who can I contact within Aura for help and support?

Matt Hayes
Sports Development Manager
01352 702467
matt.hayes@aura.wales

Donna Bullivant-Evans
Disability Sport Wales Officer
01352 702480
donna.bullivant-evans@aura.wales

Donna can provide assistance in relation to Community Chest Funding:
Helping to improve sport in your community takes a Sport Wales grant

Lee Breeze
Deeside Leisure Centre - Centre Development Officer
01352 704277
lee.breeze@aura.wales 

Ceriann Ashton
Jade Jones Pavilion Flint - Centre Development Officer
01352 704305
ceriann.ashton@aura.wales

Colin Hughes
Buckley and Mold Leisure Centres - Centre Development Officer
01352 704293
colin.hughes@aura.wales

Training, funding and governance advice is also available via Flintshire Local Voluntary Council:
www.flvc.org.uk