Borough Council Steps in to Support Leisure Services
The interim financial support package from the Council is crucial to safeguard the future leisure provision in the Borough and to reopen Parklands, Okehampton's Leisure Centre.
An interim support package, funded until September 2020, will provide Fusion, the Council's leisure provider, with the funding needed to fully open Okehampton's centre to ensure health and wellbeing needs are being met within the Borough.
The Council has been working closely with Fusion to enable the reopening of Parklands Leisure Centre with a wide range of both wet and dry activities beginning again on Monday 17 August.
By stepping in to help, the Borough Council has agreed to cover the costs of the centre's lack of use during July, while also agreeing to cover the mothballing costs for Meadowlands for three months, with further discussions about the reopening of the centre being revisited in September.
This is in addition to the funding already provided by the Council to cover the mothballing costs during the lockdown period when both centres stood empty.
Across the UK, leisure companies have been severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. With no financial support available from Central Government, other than the furlough scheme and the availability of loans, these are very challenging conditions for Fusion.
The Borough Council and Fusion are supporting the #SaveLeisure campaign launched by Community Leisure UK urging the UK Government to commit circa £800m relief funding to enable the full reopening and recovery of the public leisure sector. Without this dedicated relief fund, a third of all public leisure facilities in the UK may not reopen and half will face permanent closure by the end of the year.
Government guidance now allows Leisure Centres to reopen with strict social distancing restrictions which limit how many visitors can safely use the facilities at any one time. Restrictions also include greater cleaning systems and changes in the ventilation of facilities. With these limitations on visitors, financial forecasts suggest that takings would reduce by around 60%, meaning financial support is needed to make facilities available.
The decision to open Parklands, and not Meadowlands in Tavistock, was agreed after discussions centred on the availability of other local leisure provision. Discussions also focused on the size of each centre to accommodate social distancing restrictions.
By supporting the reopening of Parklands, the Council will provide opportunities for furloughed staff to return to work and will also support the local economy.
Cllr Tony Leech, Lead Member for Wellbeing, for West Devon Borough Council, said: "We are in a long contract with Fusion, so it is important that we respond to these huge challenges when they need our greatest support. Health and wellbeing has never been more important for our residents than now and we're doing everything in our power to ensure there are leisure facilities available within the Borough and I'm delighted to announce the reopening of Parklands Leisure Centre.
"Of course we would ideally like to keep both centres open but we have to be realistic about what we can financially provide as part of this interim support package.
"The Council will be reviewing support for Fusion and as part of that, will be discussing which of the leisure centres should be open in September."
In September, the Council will take a review of its financial position and the impact of the Covid-19 crisis, and will reconsider the Health and Wellbeing options available.
Anthony Cawley, Director of Operations at Fusion Lifestyle, said: "We know our leisure facilities are really important for the health and wellbeing of the local community. We want them open again as soon as they are safe and viable. We are so pleased our doors are beginning to open again. Together with West Devon Borough Council, we hope our customers will bear with us whilst we implement our reopening plans and they can soon enjoy their centres once again."
To find out more about the Community Leisure UK campaign and ways you can support, go to: www.communityleisureuk.org