Agenda item

Leisure Service Review

This report sets out the main issues considered in that review and then makes recommendations for consideration by Cabinet to help mitigate the continued impact from Covid-19 on income, customer behaviour and confidence and the need to adapt to changing guidance and the challenges presented by the current situation .




8:12pm the meeting was adjourned for comfort break.


8:20pm the meeting reconvened.




Councillor Paul Crossley introduced the report by saying that a variety of different measures had to be put in place due to unprecedented impact of Covid-19. 


The Leisure Service was a discretionary service, however it contributed to many critical Council priorities including tackling obesity, improving physical health and wellbeing; addressing mental health and reducing our impact on climate change through encouraging walking and cycling.  The contract with Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) to manage the Council’s leisure centres was  key to delivering these outcomes.


When Covid-19 legislation was passed that required leisure facilities to close GLL has lost all income from all of its facilities in all of its contracts.  However, ongoing costs have still remained - for example ensuring the mechanical and electrical systems, particularly linked to the swimming pools, were managed and maintained and ready to operate again once lockdown was lifted. 


This left GLL and all other leisure operators with limited options to deal with the financial impacts without support from their Local Authority partners. The situation has been made worse as leisure providers were exempt from most Covid-19 emergency support funding.


A sum of £565,643 has been agreed by the Council to the cover losses to the end of August 2020 with the Council working closely with GLL to control costs as far as possible during this time.  These costs have also been independently benchmarked by Sport England advisors to ensure they were in line with what other Local Authorities were experiencing and that all avenues for controlling costs were being explored.


At the request of the SW Chief Executive Officers group, this group has been lobbying Ministers directly on the financial pressures faced by the sector.  Funding from central government has only covered directly run LA leisure services, not those who use leisure trusts as a model of delivery as in this case.


Councillor Crossley took the meeting through the details of the phased re-opening of leisure services in BANES (as per report) and explained that in the light of the financial pressure Covid-19 has placed on the Council and GLL a review has been undertaken to seek to develop a more sustainable business model for the future.


The recommendations in this report were designed to balance the need for a sustainable financial model against the desire to provide leisure services that help to improve the health and wellbeing of the local population.


Councillor Paul Crossley moved the recommendations.


Councillor Richard Samuel seconded the motion by highlighting the government’s failure to provide any money to Leisure Services such as GLL.  According to the newspapers, the Treasury has allocated £500m to support Leisure Services across the country, and that money has not yet been distributed to those in need.  Councillor Samuel expressed his concern that Leisure Services would suffer even more in the months to come, due to Covid-19 crisis.  The government has an obligation to support this industry and thousands of jobs across the country within it, apart from other benefits of Leisure Services that were mentioned by Councillor Crossley.


The Chair welcomed the comments from Councillors Crossley and Samuel.  The Chair also said that she has had conversations with other Local Authorities who were in the same situation with Leisure Services, and whose losses in this industry were not met by the government.


Councillor Tim Ball welcomed the motion and also expressed his concern with the lack of funding for Leisure Services from the government.


RESOLVED (unanimously) that the Cabinet agreed to the following recommendations that have been developed in response to the Covid-19 impact upon the leisure industry, our contractual arrangements with GLL and the financial impacts this has placed upon the Council.


(1)  Remove Chew Valley Leisure Centre from the GLL contract and hand back the lease to Chew Valley School at the end of this financial year (31st March 2021) and work with the Lighthouse School Partnership to provide an alternative solution to providing community use of the leisure facilities outside school hours.

(2)  Re-open the dry side facilities at Culverhay Leisure Centre. The future of the  swimming pool will be considered in more detail as numbers return to leisure centres and Covid 19 infection risk is reduced.

(3)  Request officers explore investment opportunities at Odd Down Sports Ground to turn this facility from a deficit to a profit.  A business case that demonstrates a clear return on investment well within the remaining life of the contract will be required for this to proceed.

Supporting documents: