While Central Government have supported most businesses in some way, leisure providers have not received any significant funding, other than the furlough scheme and the availability of loans. The Covid-19 pandemic and a lack of central government support have created very challenging conditions for all leisure providers.
This is a national issue, and with 60% fewer users than usual following reopening, and predictions of 40% down by the end of the financial year, this issue isn't going to go away anytime soon. There is a very small percentage of centres open across the country which in itself highlights the challenges to the entire leisure sector.
The Borough Council wholeheartedly sympathise with frustrated Meadowlands users who would like to see their leisure facilities reopen as soon as possible. The Council is also eager for the centre to begin operations again. By stepping in with financial assistance to Fusion, they have done everything financially possible to provide leisure facilities within the Borough for residents and visitors.
Cllr Neil Jory, Leader of West Devon Borough Council, said: "Leisure centres are, in our view, vital for our local communities. They are going to be very important in both maintaining mental health and fitness, especially if there is a second wave of the virus later in the year. The government has provided very effective support across many sectors of the economy. But, as yet, they have not provided tailored support for local authority owned leisure centres that recognises their importance and the various business models that exist.
"We have done all we possibly can financially by providing Fusion with £97,000 of financial support to keep leisure services available and running in the Borough, but we know it's still not enough and doesn't meet the needs of all of our residents.
"In an ideal world, we would be able to fund both centres but it's simply not feasible as we have a legal duty to ensure the continuation of our frontline services on an already tightly stretched budget.
"Please let me reassure you that we are taking this issue seriously and we are hearing your concerns and call for action. We are absolutely committed to doing everything we possibly can to get the facilities up and running as quickly, and safely, as possible.
"We continue to hold discussions with Fusion and will review the financial position again in September, once we know if the Government is going to provide any financial support for the industry.
The Borough Council continues to lobby MPs and Central Government for funding and encourages residents to add their weight to the campaign by lobbying for change alongside them.
You can do this by supporting and sharing the #SaveLeisure campaign launched by Community Leisure UK urging the UK Government to commit relief funding to enable the full reopening and recovery of the public leisure sector.
Cllr Neil Jory, continues: "Help us to get these services up and running by contacting lobbying your MP and by sharing the #SaveLeisure campaign within your communities on social media. This is a great way to get our collective voices heard and to encourage backing from government."
Anthony Cawley, Director of Operations for Fusion Lifestyle, said: "We know our leisure facilities are really important for the health and well-being of the local community. We have been working in partnership with West Devon District Council to get them open again as soon as they are safe and viable to do so.
"We are continuing to review our plans for the remaining facilities and will open these when they are safe and viable to do so. We hope the residents of Devon will bear with us whilst we implement our reopening plans and they can soon enjoy their centres once again."
Go to Fusion and the News and social media feeds for updates as they happen.