THE COUNCIL could be forced to lend a helping hand to its leisure providers due to the struggles caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Leisure centres and gyms have been closed since lockdown was enforced in late March.

In a written question to leisure boss councillor Clive Harriss, councillor Robin Stuchbury asked: “Buckinghamshire Council owns a portfolio of leisure assets and has contracts with a number of different providers who run and manage these services for Buckinghamshire residents.

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“In light of the recent lockdown and the fact that leisure centres still remain closed, can the cabinet member please outline the discussions he has had with these providers about their financial resilience and the impact of the loss of income to both the providers and the council as a result of Covid-19?”

Cllr Harriss said it is “expected to take time” for the industry to recover from the fallout of the pandemic, and this means the council faces a further loss of income and increased costs as it helps providers get back on their feet and gets its centres up and running.

He added: “The council’s contracts are with three of the largest providers in the industry, all of whom have maintained a positive and open dialogue with the council throughout this period.

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“Clearly the pandemic has brought significant financial challenges to the leisure sector, therefore the government’s announcement on 9 July that indoor gyms and swimming pools in England can prepare to begin reopening from 25 July is extremely welcome news.

“Factors which will impact on future income, such as the necessary operational changes to promote social distancing and the take-up of leisure facilities, obviously remain uncertain at this stage.

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“However, using the best information currently available, operators have shared anticipated levels of expenditure and income across the Council’s leisure centres for 2020/21, which is being assessed and scrutinised in detail by officers, with input from industry expert advisors through support made available from Sport England.

“It is expected to take time for leisure services to recover and the situation will be kept under close review, including potential measures to reduce costs and mitigate the loss of income over the coming period.

“Leisure is one of a number of areas where the council faces a loss of income/increased costs due to Covid-19, more widely across the sector there is continuing dialogue with Government around the further support that is needed to address the significant pressures that councils are facing.”