£905,000 second rescue package arranged for leisure centres in Milton Keynes

    Woughton Leisure Centre (Photo: 1Life)

    A financial relief package of more than £900k has been drawn up by the council to keep some Milton Keynes leisure centres alive during the coronavirus pandemic.

    A leading councillor is set to formally take a decision tomorrow (Tuesday, December 8) which will release the help to struggling contractors 1Life and the charity, Inspire All.

    It will be the second support package from the council after it agreed in May 2020 to support 1 Life until October 31.

    Neil Sainsbury, the council’s head of placemaking, says: “Both leisure operators have made significant financial losses since the pandemic commenced as income has dropped to virtually zero during lockdown and ongoing expenses such as maintenance, security and utility costs still need to be made.

    “Due to the nature of some of the facilities, this increases during the winter period.”

    Centres have seen the loss of 30 per cent of their direct debits even when they have opened, with social distancing restricting the number of people allowed to use them, the report adds.

    Cllr Carole Baume (Lab, Woughton & Fishermead), the council’s cabinet member for economy and culture  has been recommended to approve the financial package.

    1 Life runs Windmill Hill Golf Course, Woughton Leisure Centre, Broughton Pavilion and Brooklands Pavilion on the council’s behalf.

    The package for 1 Life includes up to five months’ worth of relief payments of £40,000, the waiving of a £230,000 annual management fee, deferring a £140,000 loan, and £22,000 of interest payments.

    Inspire All, a charity that runs two leisure centres, playing fields and associated pavilions as well as a variety of smaller community centres will receive its 2021/22 management fee of £313,000 in advance.

    The hit to the council’s budget is expected to be reduced by help coming from the Government, and will be further reduced pound for pound when customers pay to use the centres.

    Council officers say if the decision is not taken the contractors “may not be able to carry on running” them.

    In that situation the council would have to take them over, paying for repairs and maintenance, security and electricity, and be responsible for paying rates. To keep the buildings closed would come at a net cost of about £50,000 per month to the council, the report says.

    Cllr Baume has been warned off giving a reduced amount of support because the “resulting financial pressure may impact on our contractor’s ability to meet the needs of the contracts.”

    The financial support up to the end of the financial year would, it is hoped, give the council the time to “consider  what is in its best interests regarding the future of the services.”

    Other leisure centres in the borough have also requested help from the council but they are not managed or owned by them. In those circumstances, the operators have been given £25,000 from small business grants.

    The council officers’ report adds that MK College, which manages Sport Central in CMK, on behalf of MKC, has not asked for support.

    © MKFM News 2020

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