People Power wins battle of the paper cups in Thornton Heath

There’s been a (minor) victory for People Power in Thornton Heath, as the firm who manage the local pool and leisure centre have promised to reinstate drinking cups at the gym’s water coolers. “We got it wrong,” Fusion Lifestyle said in a statement issued last night.

Fusion Lifestyle – which is registered as a charity but to all intents and purposes operates as a profit-making, outsourcing leisure services management company – has just six months left on its agreement to run Thornton Heath and other leisure centres in Croydon. They don’t look like they are going to get their contract renewed, and as the deal runs down, so too have their service performance levels.

It’s almost as if they don’t care, or that Fusion’s management is looking at ways of saving some money here and there before the council turns off its ready supply of readies. Over the last few months there have been mounting complaints from leisure centre users across the borough, including Waddon and South Norwood leisure centres, of poor service, closures and dirty facilities.

The final straw for customers, though, came when the management at Thornton Heath withdrew the provision of paper cups at their water dispensers.

There’s some sound environmental arguments to be made for not using paper cups (which create waste), and encouraging centre users to bring re-usable drinks bottles that they can refill at the water taps. But there was more than a suspicion that in this case, the managers at Thornton Heath were more interested in saving a few pennies than saving the Earth.

Following a flying squad visit in midweek by angry residents and other meetings co-ordinated by Bensham Manor Labour councillor Jamie Audsley, Fusion last night issued an apology, a promise to up their game, and agreed to get some more paper cups in.

In a statement about Thornton Heath Leisure Centre, issued at 5.30pm on Friday, Fusion Lifestyle said, “We are very sorry to hear of the negative feedback raised in recent days and we will continue to work hard to improve the service and communication to our users and residents.

“We can confirm that there was a short closure during September due to minor flooding and that the facilities were fully operational again on that same day. The lockers have now all been repaired and the lift and shower repairs will be complete in the next two to three days following delivery of essential parts.

“In response to the feedback we will continue to supply paper cups for the water fountain and these will available on site tomorrow. Our policy is to try and reduce waste, this was intended as part of the initiative, we got it wrong on this occasion and we have now take action to reinstate the paper cups.

Leisure centre users in Thornton Heath expect a better reception in the next few months

“Fusion’s Operations Director, Antony Cawley has now met with Councillor Audsley (Bensham Manor ward) to hear the concerns of local residents and resolve these unfortunate issues.

“Antony Cawley has also agreed to meet with local residents and councillors at our next customer forum which is to be held on October 24 at 6pm.

“At this meeting any ongoing customer concerns will be discussed in more detail and a plan agreed with customers to ensure a high-quality service is maintained moving forward.

“We would like to thank all those who have raised concerns as these have supported us to take the necessary action to improve our service.”

A reasonable conclusion, all achieved in barely a week of concerted action.

What’s more worrying is why the full-time, professional staff at Croydon Council who are supposed to oversee the delivery of proper services from our contractors were unable to achieve a similar outcome. Or allowed the state of the leisure centres to deteriorate as they have done.

According to Audsley, the following has been achieved at Thornton Heath this week:

• 52 lockers in total were repaired or replaced (Wednesday October 11) with new parts.
• Fusion are working on the dry side changing area to repair lockers out of action.
• Replacing soap dispenser, Fusion are aware of this and are working on replacing.
• All areas are now cleaned to a satisfactory standard.
• The duty manager has developed a cleaning matrix to ensure the team are working as efficiently and effectively as possible in maintaining standards.
• Fusion’s plan is to have this new schedule working effectively by the end of the month which will ensure that these issues do not arise again.
• Council will continue to work closely with Fusion, their cleaners and staff to ensure standards improve.

Audsley said, “My thanks to all those who have taken action together this week to keep improving our local leisure centre: residents who have reported issues, councillors who have followed up on concerns, our cabinet team who have worked with officers to monitor the contract and hold Fusion to account.

“At the end of the week, good news in the form of a statement from Fusion’s operations director. He’ll be visiting Thornton Heath on October 24 to meet [residents] and take personal responsibility for a high-quality service as we move forward. That’s the respect Thornton Heath deserves…

“Working together, a powerful civil society and a powerful state can hold the market to account.”

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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