More on financial threat to Energise and other GLL leisure facilities in York

In May, a media report confirmed that the GLL group – who manage several leisure facilities in York including Energise on Cornlands Road and the Yearsley swimming pool – were in financial difficulty.

Energise on Cornlands Road

They asked the York Council for support.

The move may partly explain why more progress has not been made in bringing new facilities at the York Community stadium site into use.

The York City Council said it “will continue to work closely with GLL.” 

At the time, Ian Floyd, the council’s interim head of paid services, said: “Throughout the city’s response to coronavirus we understand that the businesses we work with have had to adapt due to temporary closures, working differently and dealing with the financial demands this places on them.

We are working with our partners across the city to ensure we support them to work safely, and we continue to follow government guidance regarding our ongoing service contracts.

“City of York Council supports GLL through our leisure services contract via monthly payments. This is usually paid in arrears. Following government guidance, the council have paid three months of the contract fee upfront, covering April to June 2020.

“We understand that GLL have furloughed the majority of staff at these venues and have confirmed they are continuing to pay 100% of their salaries until May. City of York Council will continue to work closely with GLL, to work through the contract implications of the Coronavirus response which closed all public leisure facilities in March.

There has been no recent update from the Council although some facilities did subsequently reopen on a limited basis.

Community Stadium further delays

The York Council has confirmed that the new LNER Community Stadium will not now be completed until 2021. The latest problems, for the jinx hit project, apparently relate to drainage. Remedial works will take several weeks to complete.

At one level this makes little difference, as spectators are not allowed into sports events at present. It might, however, prevent York City switching their (behind closed doors) matches to the new stadium pitch which, in turn, could delay their leaving Bootham Crescent.

The start of the Rugby League season is also creeping closer while tickets for the Rugby World Cup games – now less than a year away – are already on sale.

A further threat to the project is now emerging.

The complex operator GLL – who also run the Council’s Energise sports centre in Cornlands Road – have said that the COVID restrictions have impacted on their finances. The suggestion is that this will mean job losses and possibly the permanent closure of some facilities. GLL are a social enterprise company with operations across most of the country.

The sports centre and pool at Monk Cross – although completed several weeks ago – have yet to open.

With the cinema also now closed, units like the NHS centre and library locked up and “no takers” for the restaurant units, the whole business plan for the complex now looks increasingly shaky.

What to expect at Energise leisure centre – Freedom of Information response

A few weeks ago, several customers took to Facebook to vent their frustrations at the way that the Energise leisure centre on Cornlands Road had been run since GLL took over last December.

While, in the main, users speak highly of the staff – several of whom have been there for some years – failures in telephones and computers systems were highlighted.

There was a lack of variety in the programme with the centre seemingly reverting to be a sport only venue.

Energise performance report

It turned out that the Community Room had been blocked booked by one (Council funded) organisation for the whole of the working week (9:00am – 5:00pm), effectively excluding local older people who looked to the centre as an opportunity to socialise.

Some of the reasons for this strategy have become clear following a response to a recent Freedom of Information request.

It turns out that when the York Council decided to lease the centre to GLL they failed to include in the contract qualitative measures in respect of community activities .

In effect GLL must only meet admission number targets which are set at an annual increase of 1%. There are also some restrictions on the prices that can be charged to “walk up” customers and a minimum opening hours condition.

There is also a very comprehensive SLA in place which covers a range of safety and customer care measures. The Council promises that a performance report will be taken to the “Children’s, Education and Communities Scrutiny Committee” every 6 months (as with other external services:  Explore, York Museums Trust, Make it York, etc).

Small wonder then that they are seeking to maximise the numbers passing through the entrance door.

However, Energise (now styled “Better”) was conceived as a Leisure centre and was intended to address the needs of all types of people living within walking distance of the facility. Hence the inclusion of a community room.

There is an expectation in the contract that the centre will work with other “partners”. However, so far, there seems to have been little effort made to integrate activities with those at the Acomb and Dringhouses libraries, with local community centres or residents associations.

Energise has, however, recently announced that they will be repeating the Family Triathlon event on 1st September.  But that is also a sports orientated activity.

GLL have not had much time to develop a community engagement strategy although they  have been recruiting new staff as they go through a “bedding in” period.

We hope that they will come up with a community focused programme shortly which recognises that the local neighbourhood – which includes many single person households – should be able to regard the centre as their leisure opportunity of choice, irrespective of whether that involves participation sport.

Energise roof repair bill to hit £250,000

Energise swimming pool

The Energise sports centre roof needs to be replaced according to Council officials.

There have been problems with leaks for some months. Temporary repairs have proved to be ineffective.

The centre is now being run by GLL on behalf of the Council.

The replacement roofing work will be undertaken later in the year. It is not expected that the centre will close while the work is undertaken.

The new Energise pool was opened in 2009.

 

Yearsley pool saved yet again

But competing pool at Monks Cross still in Council’s plans

Yearsley Pool

The Council has confirmed that the Yearsley swimming pool will continue to operate until at least 2024.  Opening hours will reduce to 91 per week although this will impact on very few existing users. Provision has been made for continued use by local swimming clubs.

The pool will be run by the Council’s leisure partners GLL who are also set to run other facilities in York including Energise and any facilities provided at the Community Stadium site in Monks Cross.

The Council will continue to provide a subsidy of £300,000 a year to offset the running costs of the Yearsley Pool. Nestle have agreed that users can continue to use the adjacent car park.

The future of the pool has been at risk since the last Labour administration in the City announced grand plans for a site in Monks Cross which left no funding for Yearsley.

. While the short-term future of Yearsley now seems secure, the Council is going ahead with building another public swimming pool at Monks Cross. This means that – with the huge new pool now in use at the Sports Village, a pool on the east of the City at Energise together with numerous private pools at sports clubs, hotels and schools – the City will exceed the recommended amount of leisure water facilities. supported by Sport England.

The medium term viability of the financial package may therefore be in some doubt.