THE arm's length trust set up to run leisure facilities in North Ayrshire has paid out £129,000 to consultancy companies in the last three years.

KA Leisure revealed the figures to Ayrshire Weekly Press almost nine months after we asked for the details under freedom of information legislation.

We submitted our request on August 31, 2023, and received the information 267 days later, on May 24.

During that period, KA Leisure made five positions redundant within their operations and customer service department, at a cost of around £145,000.

The breakdown of the consultancy fee figures were as follows.

Sales support £13,500 (2021-22)

Finance support: £15,840 (2022-23); £35,505 (2023-24).

Fitness support: £11,906.94 (2021-22); £24,061.67 (2022-23); £17.384.84 (2023-24).

Risk management: £2,499.85 (2021-22); £345.10 (2022-23); £644 (2023-24).

IT and CRM support: £1,624.25 (2021-22); £4,902.59 (2022-23).

HR support: £800 (2023-24).

The total spend on consultancy fees was £29,531.24 in 2021-22 and £45.149.36 in 2022-23, rising to £54,333.84 in 2023-24.

That's an increase of nearly 84 per cent in the three financial years covered by our request.


Conservative councillor Tom Marshall, a former member of the KA Leisure Trust, said he believed the consultancy costs were "reasonable", but that KA Leisure needed to cut costs in future.

North Ayrshire taxpayers are currently paying out more than £5 million a year to KA Leisure to operate leisure services which were formerly run by the council.


(Image: North Ayrshire Conservatives)

Cllr Marshall said: "I don't think these consultancy figures are excessive. The largest figure was financial support, and I think they stopped doing their own accounts and were incorporated into the council accounts.

"Funding from the council taxpayer to support KA Leisure is £5m, and I don't think we should be supporting them to that extent.

"We need to look at reducing these costs, perhaps a 10 per cent reduction. This would need to be done by raising the cost of memberships, or trimming staff further, as North Ayrshire Council has had to do.

"I have to give praise to KA Leisure CEO Malcolm McPhail who I believe has done a good job in steadying the ship and membership numbers are a way up.

"But KA Leisure still need to look at making savings even further, and look at cutting at least 10 per cent every year."

Malcolm McPhail, KA Leisure CEOMalcolm McPhail, KA Leisure CEO (Image: Newsquest)

A report on KA Leisure's performance, prepared for a meeting of North Ayrshire Council’s cabinet earlier this year, revealed that membership numbers increased to 8,800 and trading income is projected to have risen by more than £500,000 on the previous year.

The same report revealed that KA Leisure's trading deficit, after taking into account funding provided by the council, was £13,974 in 2023-24 - down from £35,423 two years earlier.

The funding provided by North Ayrshire Council to KA Leisure will be cut by more than £334,000 in 2024-25, to slightly more than £5 million.

KA Leisure's budget for 2024-25, also reported to NAC's cabinet, projects that income from other sources will rise by £380,000 in the next 12 months to £5.345 million - but that it's still expecting a trading deficit of £10,000 by the end of the next financial year.

KA Leisure manages a number of leisure facilities in North Ayrshire, including Auchenharvie Leisure Centre, Garnock Community Campus, The Portal in Irvine and Vikingar in Largs, as well as golf courses at Routenburn in Largs, Auchenharvie in Stevenston, and Ravenspark in Irvine.

The facilities are owned by North Ayrshire Council but are leased to the North Ayrshire Leisure Company which has the trading name KA Leisure.

They also support various leisure hubs at schools including Dalry Primary, Kilwinning Academy, Greenwood Academy, St Matthew’s Academy, Arran High and Largs Community Sport Hub.

A spokesperson for KA Leisure said: "KA Leisure’s spending on consultants is relatively small in terms of the size of our organisation. We always strive to minimise the use of external consultants and only use services that directly benefit our operations. It enables us to operate efficiently, innovate, and deliver exceptional services to our customers and communities.

"We are committed to reducing our expenditure across the whole organisation. However, unlike many of our delivery partners, we do have a commercial trading aspect that has enabled us to consistently grow income over the last 3 years.  This is thanks to an astute return on investment, that includes a good return on investment in the area of strategic consultancy.”