Agreement has been met by councillors to vary the terms of a £l million loan facility to Abbeycroft Leisure, the charity that manages the council’s five leisure centres, in response to on-going pressures as a result of Covid-19.
In July, the West Suffolk Council agreed the facility to support Abbeycroft’s cashflow, while awaiting the outcome of lobbying government for funding for leisure trusts.
Following extensive open book conversations and a deeper understanding of the financial impact and shape of recovery, the amendment has been made for a £500,000 tranche of the secured loan, extending the facility from six to 10 years.
John Griffiths, leader of West Suffolk Council, said: “A strong and varied leisure and sports offer will be more important than ever as we seek to recover from this pandemic protecting and improving people’s health and wellbeing. As lockdown ended we saw a strong return to leisure centres and whilst they have had to close again, we know our residents really value what they offer. We want to ensure we and Abbeycroft can welcome people back as soon as possible.”
Almost half of all council-provided leisure facilities across the country are run by leisure trusts, which despite having been severely affected by lockdown and other Covid-19 measures, still await the details of the £100m funding package from central government.
Jo Rayner, cabinet member for Leisure, Culture and Community Hubs, said: “We have worked with the Local Government Association and Sport England to lobby government and although it has announced its intention to offer some support there is still no detail, and it is not envisaged that it will meet current need. Abbeycroft is a trusted partner and these new terms will help them prudently manage these continuing pressures and deliver valued services for our residents.”
As well as managing West Suffolk Council’s leisure centres in Brandon, Bury St Edmunds, Haverhill, Mildenhall and Newmarket on behalf of West Suffolk Council, Abbeycroft Leisure delivers wider wellbeing activities and objectives.
Warren Smyth, chief executive of Abbeycroft Leisure, said: “As a not-for-profit social enterprise, we reinvest any operating surpluses into facilities and services for the benefit of our users and the wider community. We work with West Suffolk Council through a collaborative open book arrangement and we welcome these new terms. I look forward to welcoming residents back to enjoy safe, regular exercise in great facilities as soon as possible.”