LED Leisure set to receive huge rescue package

While the government has pledged to invest £100m in supporting public leisure centres this winter, no details of the scheme have yet been made available, with East Devon not knowing how much, if any, they will receive.

[From the cabinet briefing papers here is a link to LED accounts to year ending 31 Dec 2019]

DANIEL CLARK www.midweekherald.co.uk 

A rescue package of nearly three quarters of a million pounds is set to be given to LED Leisure to ensure they can continue to operate as a result of losses incurred by coronavirus lockdowns.

East Devon District Council’s cabinet on Wednesday night [11 November] heard that the forecasted losses from the implications of Covid-19 meant that without additional support, LED’s operations would not be viable, and would likely lead to closing of the facilities, particularly the swimming pools.

While leisure centres in Sidmouth, Ottery St Mary, Axminster, Colyton, Exmouth and Honiton had reopened prior to the second lockdown, as well as swimming pools in Sidmouth, Honiton and Exmouth, Broadclyst and Cranbrook leisure centres had remained closed.

While the government has pledged to invest £100m in supporting public leisure centres this winter, no details of the scheme have yet been made available, with East Devon not knowing how much, if any, they will receive.

The cabinet on Wednesday agreed to recommend to full council that an additional subsidy to LED of £732,275 to reimburse their actual net losses incurred to September 2020 resulting from Covid-19 is paid.

They also agreed that from October 2020 a monthly review and payment is then made until the end of March 2021 to cover further net losses incurred, but that the total of any additional subsidy payment in the current financial year shall not exceed £1,339,000.

In the report to the cabinet, Charlie Plowden, service lead for countryside and leisure, said: “The financial position of LED is outlined in the report including their incurred costs to date and future projected losses as result of Covid-19. If the Council decide not to financial supported LED then their reserves are projected to fall to £14,000 by the end of November, a position which would not be sustainable.

“Clearly East Devon District Council wants to be supporting our leisure provider to enable them to maintain their facilities and events programmes, which contribute towards our shared health & wellbeing objectives. Officers have provided assurance to LED that we would use our best endeavours, subject to Council approval, to ensure that their budget deficit is met

“If the situation becomes worse, then a further update report will be brought back to Cabinet via the new LED Monitoring Committee detailing the options and requirements. In the meantime, all attempts will continue by Cabinet and Officers to recover LED’s lost income from Government, or if a payment is received direct to LED then our funding arrangements will allow us to recover any sums we have paid.”

Councillor Bruce de Saram said closures would be bad thing, but there was a need to ensure sustainable long-term growth and they were fit for purpose in the future. He added: “We don’t want them to close but we need to find the right solution that doesn’t commit us to large funding.”

Cllr Paul Hayward said: “We are where we are and we will be made out to be the baddies if we withdraw the facilities, but we are not even getting the courtesy of a response from government. Writing and getting no response is disgusting and this is the fault of Government who have not thought out the funding process. They are leaving our finances and LEDs on a knife edge.”

Leader of the council, Cllr Paul Arnott, added: “We are walking the tightrope between keeping this going and not wanting to write a blank cheque.”

The cabinet unanimously agreed to recommend to full council to pay the additional £732,275 subsidy to LED Leisure to cover losses to September, and then for a monthly review and further payments to be made which shall not exceed £1,339,000.

They also called for the district’s three MPs to as matter of urgency lobby ministers to ensure leisure trusts receive Covid-related leisure funding equitable to non-trust run leisure centres and to try and hold an urgent meeting with the relevant minister where they can explain the difficulty as a result of failure to provide funding and to demand it is immediately forthcoming.