The operators of North Devon Leisure Centre and Tarka Tennis are set to be given another £80,000 of emergency funding to cover losses suffered during the coronavirus crisis.
North Devon Council’s strategy and resources committee signed off on the bailout for Parkwood Leisure, which runs the leisure centre, tennis centre and Ilfracombe Pool and Fitness Centre, when it met on Monday, October 5.
The money covers losses experienced by the provider due to the Covid-19 pandemic during June and July.
It follows £80,000 in grants paid by the council to Parkwood for losses in April and May.
Speaking to the committee, the council’s contracts and delivery manager Mark Kentell warned that without providing financial support there was a ‘very real threat’ the district’s swimming pools would have to shut again.
He said in the worst case, the leisure contract could be terminated by Parkwood, resulting in the leisure facilities it runs being shut and the loss of 127 jobs.
Mr Kentell said: “These facilities we are talking about are hugely important. They are the cornerstone of physical activity in our area and if they are not there it will have a huge impact on community sport and physical and mental wellbeing.
“This isn’t at all about sticking cash into the back pocket of a private company. Our leisure contract is very, very good value for money and tax payers do get a very good return.
“Ultimately there’s a determination clause on the contact and it could be – and it’s a very real threat – that the doors will shut and they will say they can’t make it work any more. At that point I don’t know how we would restart leisure services here.”
Mr Kentell’s report to councillors said Parkwood’s revenues for August were down 79 per cent compared to last year.
While pools have reopened and have seen some 2,000 lane sessions booked, September income is expected to be down 65 per cent.
The company has made 14 people redundant and a further 27 staff members are in consultation over redundancies.
Councillor John Patrinos said: “We need to look to the future beyond the current crisis so we can capitalise on what happens next. I think we’ve got no option but to continue to support this great contract we have got.”
Councillor Liz Spear added: “It is vital to the economy and the wellbeing of the people of North Devon we keep it going.”
The funding was unanimously agreed by councillors.