Leisure centres run up huge reopening bill for taxpayers

Leisure centres run up huge reopening bill for taxpayers
Leisure Centres set to reopen. Pictured: Tunbridge Wells Sports Centre

Fusion Lifestyle, which runs centres for Councils across the UK, normally pays Tunbridge Wells Borough Council [TWBC] a management fee to operate its three centres in St John’s Road, Putlands in Paddock Wood, and the Weald Sports Centre in Cranbrook.

While the government announced in July that leisure centres and swimming baths across the UK could now reopen, after they were closed in the wake of coronavirus in March, Fusion has not had the required funds to reopen any of its sports centres, and has been negotiating with councils across the UK to acquire money.

Fusion say that not only does it now have to ensure all centres are Covid safe, the crisis ‘has had a huge financial impact on the sector’ and it expects ‘projected footfall and income will be significantly down over the next year’ as it attempts to operate within the new government guidelines.

In a report to be presented to the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee next week [Tuesday, September 1], TWBC has agreed to vary the contact with Fusion that will not only see it waiving the £249,634 management fee the company normally pays to run the centres, but also handing over £420,000 from Council funds to pay for the re-openings.

The Council is already facing an £8million deficit in its finances due to the coronavirus pandemic.

While Cabinet will have the final say on September 10, it is expected that, if councillors recommend the funding should be approved, the three centres could be open as early as next week for leisure activities, and swimming pools a few days later.

The Council is also requesting the Head of Housing Health and Environment to review the options for future delivery of sports centre activities from April 2022.

A spokesperson for Fusion told the Times: “We know our leisure facilities are really important for the health and well-being of the local community and we want them open again as soon as they are safe and viable.

“Together with Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, we hope our members will bear with us whilst we implement our reopening plans and they can soon enjoy their centres once again.

“We will be announcing September opening dates very soon.”

Community centres to reopen:

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council’s community centres, including the Camden Centre in Royal Tunbridge Wells, are reopening.

The Camden Centre, TN2 (Sherwood, Tunbridge Wells) and the Wesley Centre (Paddock Wood) were closed when lockdown was introduced in March.

Plans are being made for the Camden Centre to reopen from September 1 on Mondays and Thursdays 8.30am to 10pm and on Saturdays between 7.45 am and 5pm.

TN2 will reopen from September 1, while the Wesley Centre will reopen in January 2021.

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