Council to pay £600k to leisure trust

Bosses have agreed to pay more than half a million pounds to a leisure trust to help it stay afloat while the pandemic forces pools and gyms to remain closed.

Tameside’s executive cabinet signed off on an advance payment of £600k to Active Tameside to cover adult and children’s services commissioned by the council from April 1 to September 30.

The payment will be made on July 1, and is aimed at supporting the cashflow of the business, which runs five swimming pools and eight gyms in the borough.

Cabinet member for neighbourhoods, community safety and environment, Cllr Allison Gwynne, said the council has a ‘responsibility under our obligations of health and wellbeing to make sure they are able to operate’.

It comes as the government has agreed to open up parts of the economy from lockdown on July 4 – such as bars, restaurants and cinemas – but leisure and sports facilities do not yet have a reopening date.

Council leader Brenda Warrington told members there was ‘quite a lobby building up’ from leisure companies arguing they could open as safely ‘if not safer’ than other areas.

“It’s quite an annoyance that the government seems to have made the decision to open just about anything and everything except leisure facilities,” she said.

“There doesn’t seem to be a logic to a lot of people.”

She added: “I think we’ve got an awful lot invested in our sports and leisure facilities in Tameside and the payback to us isn’t particularly profit from those, it’s more to ensure that the people that are most vulnerable in Tameside get really good facilities, public health wise from these areas.

“I do want us to do everything possible to maintain those facilities and actually increase the usage and provide an even better offer to our residents.”

The report to cabinet states that the financial impact on Active Tameside to ensure ‘business continuity’ during coronavirus is estimated between £2.1m and £3.3m for the year’s budget.

Their three main sources of revenue at the centres, swimming lessons, health and fitness memberships and gymnastics lessons could be reduced by 50pc by a combination of implementing social distancing and ‘customer anxiety’.

Currently 83 per cent of employees at Active Tameside have been furloughed, which is saving £250k a month, according to the report.

Debbie Watson, assistant director of population health explained the council was able to provide ‘supplier relief’ to maintain delivery of services under the government Covid procurement guidance. 

She told members that the trust was also putting in place measures for when they could welcome back residents.

“Facilities will be open in a very safe cautious phased approach ensuring social distancing measures and infection control measures are in place,” Ms Watson said.

 

Main image:

The pool at the new Tameside Wellness Centre in Denton. Photo: MEN with permission. 

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