25 January, 2021

Financial support to be considered to protect vital leisure services

On Thursday 28 January, Cabinet members are to consider a funding support strategy which seeks to protect vital leisure services in Thanet.

Government restrictions in place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the closure of local gyms, have led to a significant financial impact on Your Leisure – a not-for-profit leisure trust which manages many of the district’s leisure and entertainment facilities. This includes Northdown House, Margate Winter Gardens, Hartsdown Leisure Centre and Ramsgate Leisure Centre. Your Leisure also provide management services at Margate Theatre Royal and manage beach huts along the coastline.

Cabinet members will review a range of proposed measures which seek to financially support the leisure trust and ensure the continued operation of these services. The proposals are as follows:

  • To approve a loan to Your Leisure of between £700k-£1.5m, terms to be agreed but with an interest rate equivalent to market rate.
  • To provide additional funding to the Winter Gardens to ensure that it can reopen and operate from October 2021. This will address the cost of replacing and relocating the boilers at an estimated cost of £230,285 plus VAT.
  • To explore with Your Leisure the potential to refinance, through Council prudential borrowing, their existing loans in respect of Ramsgate and Hartsdown Leisure Centres.
  • To agree that the council will extend the current agreement for Your Leisure to manage the Theatre Royal until 28 April 2022.

Leader of Thanet District Council, Cllr Rick Everitt, said: “As the report rightly states, the financial impact of Covid-19 on the leisure and entertainment industry has been profound. If the council doesn’t act now we could be faced with the prospect of many local services having to cease operation. This could have far reaching long-term effects given the health inequalities we see within our district. 

“There would be significant financial implications for the council, whether we took services in-house, were able to identify an alternative provider or allowed them to cease altogether. There is no risk-free option here.

“Whilst we welcome the recent Government financial support to the leisure sector it doesn’t go nearly far enough and only applies from 2 December 2020. This doesn’t address many months of financial loss before that, given the first national restrictions were imposed in March 2020. At this point all of Your Leisure’s facilities and services were required to close and consequently their customer income ceased. Whilst some services have reopened, customer confidence remains low and there is significant uncertainty around when the latest national restrictions will lift.

“The council has worked closely with Your Leisure throughout the pandemic to understand the challenges they have been facing and has confidence in the management’s approach.

“Supporting a Thanet business, which employs many local people and in turn protects the health and wellbeing of so many of our residents, who really value the services provided, has to be a priority and this will be considered when the Cabinet meets on Thursday.”

The full Cabinet report can be viewed here 

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