Camden Council 'considers' bringing leisure centres in-house post-Covid
- Credit: Greenwich Leisure Ltd
Camden Council says it will consider new ways of running leisure centres once the pandemic is over – including bringing sports facilities in-house.
The town hall signed a 10-year contract worth £18.9m with Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL) last January to run the borough’s gyms, but the council says it will reassess its leisure services once the full impact of Covid becomes clearer.
GLL, a not-for-profit which runs under the name Better, has relied on the government’s furlough scheme and received bailouts from local authorities – including in Islington – to manage more than 500 job cuts and £170m of lost revenue during the pandemic.
In light of GLL’s struggles, national trade union Unite called on Camden Council to “take back control” of its sports centres. It cited 500 permanent job cuts by the operator and 2,000 casual employees without work.
Regional officer Onay Kasab said: “The service is unable to be provided. Rather than throw money at a company not providing a service, take the service back in-house.”
A spokesperson for GLL, which runs 230 pools, gyms and sports halls across the country, said it is trying to protect as many “flexible hours and permanent jobs as possible” – and that it would lobby government for more “comprehensive” funding.
“These are exceptionally tough trading conditions brought about by Covid,” the spokesperson said.
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“Should lockdown restrictions continue beyond 21st April 2021 and the furlough scheme be extended, we will continue to do all we can to safeguard as many roles as possible.”
Camden Council has not bailed out GLL but has given it more time to meet its financial obligations.
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The contract between the town hall and GLL includes break clauses upon any breach of terms.
Camden Council’s communities chief, Cllr Anna Wright, said: “Post Covid, we are now considering all potential delivery models, including in-house provision, for our leisure centres.
“However, these are unprecedented times and we cannot make a decision as to what represents the best choice for our residents until the impact of Covid on the leisure sector can be more fully assessed.
“In the meantime GLL continue to manage the centres under their current contract.”