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13 Mar 2024
Jen Holland takes over leadership of one of the UK's largest trusts, Edinburgh Leisure
By Kath Hudson
Jen Holland takes over leadership of one of the UK's largest trusts, Edinburgh Leisure
Jen Holland is new chief executive of Edinburgh Leisure
Photo: Edinburgh Leisure
Edinburgh Leisure has appointed Jen Holland as chief executive. She will take over from June Peebles on 18 March.

A qualified accountant, Holland has been director of strategic commissioning and partnerships at Scottish Borders Council since March 2019 and has a wealth of sector experience and insight, having previously worked with various public sector and charity organisations, including Fife Cultural Trust, NHS Fife and Live Borders.

Holland says she's committed to continuing the community focus of the organisation, saying: “Edinburgh Leisure has an incredible track record and commitment to improving the health and wellbeing of the people of Edinburgh through a huge variety of services, programmes and projects. I'm proud to be able to lead the organisation in the continuation of this work.”

Scott Haldane, chair of Edinburgh Leisure’s Board, paid tribute to long-standing chief executive, Peebles, who retired at the end of February, saying: “June’s outstanding leadership has left an indelible mark on the business, exemplifying exceptional skills and a clear vision for individual and organisational performance. She's left behind an organisation that's mature and certain of its purpose. A charity dedicated to make a positive difference by creating opportunities for everyone to get active, stay active and achieve more."

Peebles had been with Edinburgh City Council since 1985 and was director of operations when Edinburgh Leisure was created, in April 1998. She had been CEO since December 2014 and her legacy includes being instrumental in securing statutory funding to deliver the work of The Active Communities Team, which supports more than 10,000 people affected by health conditions, disabilities, inequalities and poverty to overcome barriers and tackle inequalities to improve their health and wellbeing.

Edinburgh Leisure operates more than 50 venues across the city, including the Royal Commonwealth Pool, the Meadowbank Sports Centre – which opened during the pandemic – Victorian Swim Centres, Europe’s largest climbing arena, six golf courses, leisure centres and school facilities.

The organisation was in the news in January due to a forecast £3.6m deficit and a kerfuffle about funding, when leaked documents showed it was considering closing eight facilities, including gyms and pools, to save around £2m a year.

The council responded to the leak, explaining the closures were a worst case scenario. The shortfall was reduced to £3.2m via budget balancing and the council went on to find the additional £3.2m from its coffers.

Around £800k of this is being used to return staff to the Real Living Wage (£12/hour) after the organisation opted out of the Real Living Wage in 2023 to save cash.

There are around 26 leisure trusts in Scotland, providing services to the nation's 21 councils.

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