City council set to pay £445k to keep Riverside Leisure Centre open
PUBLISHED: 14:24 09 September 2020 | UPDATED: 14:24 09 September 2020
The city council is set to pay almost half a million pounds towards keeping one of its leisure centres open.
The Riverside Leisure Centre (RLC), in Wherry Road, Norwich, is managed by Places Leisure on behalf of the council, and closed at the start of the lockdown.
In August, the centre announced it was reopening on September 1, with users told to pre-book swims.
Now the council is set to agree payments totalling £445,609 to the firm to fund the centre reopening.
At a meeting of the city council cabinet on Wednesday, September 8, councillors will vote on plans to pay Places back for costs accrued during lockdown - and to fund the costs of running the centre throughout this financial year.
If approved, the council will pay £225,619 in costs racked up while RLC was shut, with an initial payment of £200,000 and the rest paid by the end of September.
However, the council will also vote on proposals to pay the running costs until the end of the financial year, of £219,990.
And the city council will also waive its £80,214 management fee from the centre for the year.
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The council expects to fund the payments to Places Leisure with the £1.8m in emergency coronavirus grant funding it received from central government during the pandemic.
While the council will bear the first 5pc of the lost fee, with 75pc reclaimable from the government under the Covid-19 income reimbursement scheme.
The council said 78 members of leisure centre staff were placed on furlough - while one employee continued to work throughout.
A report published ahead of the meeting stated: “Significant restrictions [are] in place due to social distancing and cleaning requirements, resulting in reduced footfall and considerable loss of income for the operator whilst expenditure remains high.”
The centre’s business insurance is being litigated in the High Court, but the council says it will review costs if the claim succeeds.
Officers considered bringing the running of the centre in-house, disposing of the lease or closing RLC for an indefinite period - but did not reveal what the financial implications of these options would have been.
But officers said the centre was “well-used” and “positively contributes to the local economy and the health and wellbeing of Norwich residents and visitors” and “considerable work” had been done to reach the best settlement.
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