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Huge Financial Dilemma Over The Reopening Of The Triangle Leisure Centre In Burgess Hill

25th June 2020 | By Peter Chapman

Mid Sussex's leisure centres are having the single biggest impact on the council's finances during the current Covid-19 pandemic - costing the council £270k per month - according to MSDC Leader Jonathan Ash-Edwards in his address to councillors on Wednesday evening.

It was also stated that even when the government finally give the green light for indoor gyms and swimming pools to reopen, MSDC will not be in a position to open the doors to centres immediately - such as the Triangle in Burgess Hill - as it will cost more to run the facilities at reduced capacity than it does to keep them closed!

triangle leisure centre burgess hill

Cllr Ash-Edwards explained the following:

The centres have been closed by law since mid-March and has come at an eye-watering cost to the District Council.

Prior to lockdown, Places Leisure paid MSDC a monthly management fee of £117k, this income has been forgone and in addition, MSDC has to underwrite the cost of the centres not being open and are currently having to pay Places Leisure approximately £157k per month - the figure would have been much higher had the government's furlough scheme not been in place.

The government is yet to announce when leisure centres and indoor gyms can reopen, but when they do, it will be at a vastly reduced capacity - perhaps as low as 30% for a period of time.

There is a fixed-cost base to having the leisure centres open, regardless of how many people are using them, so to reopen the centres will cost a lot more than the £270k per month the council is losing with them closed.

MSDC are working with other councils who have contracts with Places Leisure. A number of expert advisors are involved, as well as the Local Government Association and Sport England.

Any arrangements put in place for the reopening of the centres must be sustainable and affordable for a prolonged period of time - perhaps indefinitely.

As it stands, the reopening of leisure centres is not something that the council can currently afford to underwrite.

MSDC are working on modeling a number of different options and are currently negotiating with Places Leisure about this.

Jonathan said: "It is important that I level with councillors and the public, that regardless of when the government says that leisure centres can legally reopen, it will unfortunately be some time before we can even partially reopen leisure centres in Mid Sussex."

Cllr Richad Bates spoke about the swimming pools at our centres and how it could be feasible to get them open sooner than later

Cllr Ash-Edwards said that there was a disconnect between the things that are the safest to reintroduce and the cost of doing so - swimming pools are the most expensive part of the leisure centre's operation.

The leader vowed to update members on the situation around the leisure centres as the portfolio holder and himself work with officers to come up with some proposals.

Spread the word - The Triangle Leisure Centre may not reopen for a long time yet...

Got an opinion on this story? Leave a comment below.....
What aspects of the leisure centres should MSDC reopen when the government gives the green light?

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