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Council considers additional financial support which could enable leisure provider to open up leisure centre facilities

Council considers additional financial support which could enable leisure provider to open up leisure centre facilities

Braintree District Council is working to support Fusion Lifestyle in reopening leisure facilities across the district as soon as possible

Braintree District Council is working to support Fusion Lifestyle (which runs the centres on behalf of Braintree District Council) in reopening leisure facilities across the district to make sure residents can get back to their fitness activities, while ensuring all measures are put in place to protect customers.  

At a meeting of Full Council on Monday July 27, councillors will be asked to consider the allocation of funding to be used to get the leisure centres up and running at the earliest opportunity. If approved, a detailed reopening plan will go to a special meeting of Cabinet on July 31. It is likely that the leisure service will return in two phases. The plan would be for gyms, health & fitness and outdoor activities to reopen first in early August with phase two seeing the reopening of all facilities.

The council has been supporting Fusion with financial support totalling £167,000 to maintain the council’s facilities over lockdown and will need to commit up to £480,000 (which will take the centres up to March 2021) in order for the district’s leisure centres to start the reopening process.

Participation at Fusion Leisure centres reduced dramatically in the lead up to the lockdown, with centres required to close completely on Friday 20th March 2020 as part of a central government directive.

Cllr Peter Tattersley, Braintree District Council’s Cabinet Member for Health & Wellbeing said: “We know people are eager to get back to their health and fitness activities and we are working hard with Fusion so that they can open as soon as possible in a Covid-19 Secure way. Leisure centre providers up and down the country have been severely hit by the pandemic and have needed urgent funding to cover loss of income and building maintenance costs. We want to do what we can to support the reopening of leisure centres as soon as possible because they are a key part of our community where people from all walks of life can make positive lifestyle choices, increasing their physical and emotional wellbeing.”

Cllr David Bebb, Cabinet Member for Finance & Performance Management, at Braintree District Council, said; “We now have a clear indication of the financial support Fusion needs in order to follow all the new national guidance and re-open in a safe way. By giving this additional money, Fusion will have the confidence to bring staff, currently on furlough, back to work so important work to reconfigure the centres can take place such as applying appropriate social distancing on gym equipment, implementing new sanitisation systems and mobilising new online booking systems so a safe and structured use of the sites can be put in place. We, like other councils and their leisure providers, continue to lobby the government for a funding package for the leisure sector, we recognise the important role our leisure centres play in our communities, supporting the physical and mental wellbeing of our district’s residents.”

Carl Bentley, Regional Business Manager for Fusion Lifestyle, said: “We have been analysing the safety and financial challenges ahead for our leisure services. The Covid-19 crisis has had a huge financial impact on our sector and footfall and income is projected to be significantly down over the next year while we operate within the new guidelines. We know leisure facilities are really important to the health and wellbeing of thousands of people throughout the Braintree District and we want to open again as soon as possible, we know we have many loyal customers and I would like to thank them for bearing with us during this really difficult time. We are working with Braintree District Council to look at the options for a phased return.”

How customers use gyms, pools and other facilities up and down the country will change significantly in the coming months. National guidance can be read here and includes details of the changes customers will see to changing rooms/showing facilities, pre-booking, adult lane swimming only, limited numbers in the pools and the need for data collection to aid with Test and Trace.

A paper for Full Council has been published today and can be found here: https://braintree.cmis.uk.com/braintree/Meetings/tabid/70/ctl/ViewMeetingPublic/mid/397/Meeting/814/Committee/2/Default.aspx