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Council to takes steps to secure long-term future of leisure centres

Released: Friday, 26 June 2020

Adur District Council today assured residents that it will take all steps possible to secure sustainable leisure services in the future following the announcement that the company running centres is facing collapse.

Impulse Leisure, trading locally as Adur Community Leisure (ACL), which runs all leisure and recreational services from three centres in the district, announced it was in severe difficulty with up to 150 jobs at risk.

The leisure centres affected are Lancing Manor Leisure Centre, Southwick Leisure Centre and Wadurs Community Pool in Shoreham which are all owned by Adur District Council. The Council awarded Impulse a 30-year contract to run leisures services out of the centres in 2005. Any financial surplus goes to the company, not to the Council, in addition to the Council paying an annual Service Fee to ACL to deliver the services.

In common with some other leisure service suppliers around the country Impulse has been severely affected by the Covid-19 Pandemic and subsequent lockdown. The centres have been closed since March with doubt still surrounding when some activities will be able to resume.

The Council has been in dialogue with Impulse during that period but there has been an ongoing concern over how the company will finance itself moving forward. The Council did pay in advance the full annual service fee it pays to the company to run services from its buildings but is not able to offer the large one off payment requested for financial reasons or without sufficient likelihood that Impulse will be able to recover and maintain its services for residents. The Council's own finances have been badly affected by the lockdown.

The Council today insisted it would maintain the centres to ensure they were fit for use and begin the search for a new operator immediately.

Cllr Emma Evans, Adur District Council's Executive Member for the Environment, said:

“We understand how devastating this news must be to a large number of staff during these uncertain times. We will do all we can to try to reopen those centres as soon as is practicable. Obviously these are difficult times for many businesses and leisure centres are no exception.

“The Council has done everything possible to support Impulse moving forward. But we also have a duty to local taxpayers to ensure that local services are operated efficiently and cannot place a large financial burden on the authority to prop up an external organisation.

“But we believe there is a solid future for these centres if we can find the right operator. The lockdown has proved that people are looking to become more active and if we can look imaginatively at future offerings I see no reason why we can't return these centres to full health at the heart of their communities, with a more robust community based leisure arrangement ”

The Council has employed expert leisure consultants to review the current position and look at different options for leisure in the future. The Council considers the company's recovery plans submitted to date are lacking in detail and insufficiently robust.

Given the costs required by ACL to get them through this lockdown period in addition to its own existing running costs and the current stability of the company, the Council's current view is that there is substantial risk that any public money loaned will not be recovered.

The Council believes it could have a good opportunity to reboot the leisure centres post-pandemic with new operators to meet the rising and changing needs of residents to leisure and wellbeing activities.

Members will make a final decision at Adur & Worthing Councils' Joint Strategic Committee on 7th July 2020.

(PR20-068)

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