More than £2 million in funding set to save leisure centres under threat

North Herts Leisure centre in Letchworth

NHDC has agreed a £2.45m funding package to help North Herts leisure facilities that are under serious threat off the back of multiple lockdowns. - Credit: NHDC

A new funding package has been agreed to rescue North Herts' leisure centres, which are once again under threat due to current lockdown restrictions.

At a North Herts District full council meeting, a revised package of financial support was agreed to ensure the continued delivery of council owned leisure facilities - run by Stevenage Leisure Ltd. 

The facilities have been heavily impacted by coronavirus since the start of the pandemic. This has been a national trend affecting fitness and leisure facilities throughout the UK.

In order to reduce the potential spread of COVID-19, the government instructed all gyms and leisure centres to close in March, in the period of national restrictions during November, and again in the current period of national restrictions.

Royston leisure centre

SLL, which runs Royston Leisure Centre, is set to receive NHDC funding following a loss during the coronavirus pandemic - Credit: Daniel Wilson

This has left SLL - which runs North Herts Leisure Centre in Letchworth, Royston Leisure Centre and Stevenage Arts and Leisure Centre - facing significant ongoing costs but no income, causing a serious threat to the viability of sport and leisure provision at the centres.

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This prompted NHDC’s cabinet to propose additional funding to cover the closures and recovery.

The financial support will reimburse any losses, which will help to secure health and wellbeing provision for residents in the future. The support to SLL in 2020/21 is forecast to be £2.45 million with further financial support of £2 million forecast in 2021/22.

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Some of this cost will be covered by grants and compensation received, or expected to be received, from government, but the majority will come from NHDC funds.

NHDC’s executive member for leisure Councillor Steve Jarvis said: “Our much-loved leisure centres are really important assets for our community. They will play an essential role in supporting people’s physical and mental health once the current lockdown restrictions are eased, so it is vitally important we do everything we can to protect them and support our leisure partner through this challenging period.

“Their loss would have a negative impact on the health and wellbeing of residents in North Herts at the worst possible time. It is therefore important that we provide the necessary financial assistance to safeguard their future.”

Cllr Ian Albert, executive member for finance said: “We have already provided emergency financial relief to ensure our leisure centres could survive this crisis and if we want them to be able to welcome customers back through the doors, it’s essential we provide this ongoing support package.

“We believe what we’ve done is the right way forward, the costed way forward, the sensible way forward.  Yes, it comes with risks and challenges but we do think this is the most sensible, practical solution.

"It will be subject to constant review and if there are changes in the coming financial year we will come back to full council for a further discussion.”

SLL's operations manager Richard Allan added: “We recognise and appreciate the ongoing support we are receiving from NHDC. Without the financial support to offset some of the losses incurred, there would be a real risk of us not being able to reopen the centres and deliver a leisure service for the residents of North Herts.

"We look forward to reinstating the service and welcoming members and customers back to their local leisure centre as soon as we are permitted."

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