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Council hands £154,000 lifeline to leisure operator during Covid-19 crisis

PUBLISHED: 15:59 04 June 2020 | UPDATED: 15:59 04 June 2020

Abbeycroft Leisure runs five gyms in West Suffolk, including Newmarket Leisure Centre (pictured). Picture: ABBEYCROFT LEISURE

Abbeycroft Leisure runs five gyms in West Suffolk, including Newmarket Leisure Centre (pictured). Picture: ABBEYCROFT LEISURE

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West Suffolk Council has given a six figure financial support package to its leisure operator to cope with the costs of the coronavirus lockdown.

West Suffolk Council leader John Griffiths said gyms and leisure would be an integral part of people's wellbeing and health as coronavirus lockdown begins to ease. Picture: MARIAM GHAEMIWest Suffolk Council leader John Griffiths said gyms and leisure would be an integral part of people's wellbeing and health as coronavirus lockdown begins to ease. Picture: MARIAM GHAEMI

Abbeycroft Leisure runs the gyms and leisure centres in Brandon, Bury St Edmunds, Haverhill, Newmarket and Mildenhall on behalf of the authority, but was forced to close its facilities once lockdown began in late March.

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Staff at those facilities have been furloughed, and has secured other government support mechanisms while there has been no income.

The council has now signed off a £154,300 package to help Abbeycroft meet the costs for April, May and June.

Councillor John Griffiths, council leader said: “Our health is and will be a key factor in our ability to deal with the impact Covid has on our families, communities and businesses; and as we emerge from this crisis, opportunities to exercise and socialise will be more important than ever.

“The leisure centres West Suffolk Council owns in each of its five main towns are managed by not-for-profit social enterprise Abbeycroft Leisure.

“Like other leisure operators, their income has stopped while costs continue, and we have worked with them to get them Government support, as we have with other West Suffolk businesses.

“This support relates to costs that have been incurred between April and June and are directly attributable to council-owned leisure centres.

“The support will be reviewed in mid-June, when further measures for lifting lockdown are rolled out and we can work on recovery.

“From the outset, council assets like parks and open spaces have played a crucial role in wellbeing and, with daily exercise now embedded in our lives, I envisage that our leisure centres will continue to play an important role in supporting healthy families and resilient communities here in West Suffolk.”

Among the costs the organisation still faces are wages for its skeleton staff, utility costs and maintenance expenditure.

According to the council’s report, Abbeycroft is also using its own reserves to meet some of the additional costs.

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It is understood the bailout is being funded from the government grant handed to the council as part of the Covid-19 response.

An opening date for gyms has not yet been announced by the government, but is unlikely to be this month.


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