The recent media focus in York about the new Community Stadium has tended to draw attention away from the City’s leisure centres. The future needs to be clarified as the pandemic seems likely to prevent their early reopening.
The centres have been managed by GLL “Better Leisure “ since 2017.
They took over the “Energise” facility on Cornlands Road, the Yearsley swimming pool and – more recently – the new Burnholme and Monks Cross centres. For a short time they had managed the “Waterworld” facility at Monks Cross but it had closed against a background of declining attendances.
The decision to outsource the Council owned facilities was a controversial one. Essentially what had been a Labour controlled Council wanted to minimise the financial risk for taxpayers. The deal that was set up gave the social enterprise provider ample scope to make profits from its new estate.
There have been continuing grumbles about the Energise/Better site with many feeling that charges are too high to be attractive in one of the less well off parts of the City.
In common with similar facilities elsewhere, GLL have been forced to close due to the lockdown (s).
This has presented them with the problem of ongoing expense but no customers. Most of their staff have been “furloughed” and buildings mothballed. The much-delayed opening of the Monks Cross Community Stadium site has added to their woes.
It remains to be seen whether compensation could be payable – and to whom – for the delayed building works.
The Council pays GLL a management fee. Sources within the Council have said that GLL are now seeking compensation for their ongoing losses.
Apparently, the Council have submitted a claim for £399,000 to Sport England who had offered to support leisure operators. This may not be enough to cover the deficit. The Council and GLL are currently undertaking an “open book” review.
Any decision to provide additional financial support from the Council would require a decision from Councillors. Several Councillors – as users of the leisure facilities – would be debarred from voting on any such decision.
There is another body of opinion which thinks that the local authority should bring the facilities back under its direct control.
It seems that the Community Stadium saga has allot further to run.