North Somerset Council is offering financial assistance to the operators of its six leisure centres.
The move, agreed by the council’s executive today (Wednesday), aims to ensure that some leisure provision is still available to North Somerset residents through the Covid-19 recovery period.
Until March, the council’s leisure centres received approximately 1.5 million individual visits a year and over 9,000 residents are members.
Hutton Moor in Weston, Scotch Horn in Nailsea, Parish Wharf in Portishead, Backwell, Strode in Clevedon and Churchill leisure centres are operated on behalf of the council by Places Leisure, Legacy Leisure and GLL. The council will waive £164,000 in management fees owed to it between April 2020 and September 2020 to support the reopening of the centres.
An additional £500,000 is also being offered by the council to help the three providers during the period of closure. The level of support will be agreed with the operators and be based on actual losses during the closure period. If government support becomes available, the support from the council would be repaid.
The council will also work closely with the leisure providers on a phased recovery period, with a focus on opening as many of the leisure sites as soon as possible once restrictions are lifted.
The council will provide an additional £200,000 (maximum capped total amount for all leisure provision to the end of September) to the leisure operators to support the reopening of facilities during their recovery. This will be reviewed monthly during the period of reopening and a contribution will only be made where this is critical to support the reopening.
Repayments of capital investment costs used to improve and refurbish the leisure centres of £267,000 from the leisure contractors to the council in 2020 will also be deferred and reapportioned across the remaining contract term between 2021 and 2027.
Further support will be considered in a September review, in the context of additional government support for Covid-19 costs to support councils delivering services to their residents.
Cllr Ash Cartman, executive member with responsibility for finance said without financial support the leisure management companies managing the largest sites in North Somerset may not be able or willing to reopen facilities:
“Without any income, the leisure centres are still incurring huge monthly running costs for these complex buildings. We are very concerned that some of them may not be able to open again without our support.
“The result would be a loss of leisure provision at a time when maintaining a good level of physical and mental health is so important for our residents. North Somerset Council is committed to improving the health of the local population and reducing health inequalities.”
In developing the requested support package, the leisure operators have excluded all operator profit from the calculations for the whole of the 2020/21 financial year. They will be operating at a net cost to the operator to rebuild the businesses locally and provide services to North Somerset residents.