£224,500 boost for four leisure centres

Freedom Leisure operate 75 centres across the country. 

Freedom Leisure managing director Ivan Horsfall-Turner starting a shift pre-lockdown as part of a ‘forfeiture’ set by staff at one of the company's leisure centres. - Credit: FREEDOM LEISURE/TWITTER

Fenland's four Covid-closed Freedom Leisure centres - which received a third £777,000 council bailout last October - will each receive a share of a £224,500 grant.

The money from Sport England’s National Leisure Recovery Fund comes after Fenland District Council agreed to a third bailout in October 2020 to ensure the March, Chatters, Whittlesey and Wisbech leisure centres remain solvent.

The October financial package – made up of deferred management fees, cash support, and a £200,000 interest-free loan – came to £777,000 to run until the end of this month.

Those sums exclude £322,000 received by the council from government grants for lost management fees from Freedom Leisure.

Now, FDC has agreed to defer the monthly management fee of £37,560 per month for April 2021 to June 2021, at a cost to the council of £112,680.

The council also agreed that repayment of the £312,680 shall become payable through an annual deduction of 75% of any profit generated in excess of the levels predicted in the LOBTA (Leisure Operators Base Trading Account).

Cllr Sam Clark, Fenland District Council’s portfolio holder for leisure, said of the latest funding boost: “We are confident that the reopening of centres will be met with support from local residents and, as restrictions continue to ease throughout the year, the centres will be expected to run a full service as they did prior to the pandemic.”

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Cllr Chris Boden, Leader of Fenland District Council and portfolio holder for finance, added: “Running costs did not stop when centres had to close and when they reopened with reduced hours in the summer, Covid safety measures resulted in a significantly reduced capacity."

Ivan Horsfall-Turner, managing director at Freedom Leisure, added: “The last year has been a significant challenge for the leisure industry and our role in providing the local communities across Fenland with access to health, fitness and wellbeing opportunities has never been more important.

"The funding secured with Fenland District Council will help us to reopen and get back to delivering a vital service to their residents and visitors.”

Tim Hollingsworth, Sport England’s chief executive, said: “This investment is crucial and will help thousands to reopen when it becomes possible to do so – supporting the recovery and helping people get back to the activity they have badly missed."

For more information on the leisure facilities, visit: www.freedom-leisure.co.uk