Freedom Leisure set for ‘large’ support from Wrexham Council to help deal with energy crisis
Wrexham.com understands that Wrexham Council has agreed a ‘large’ sum with local leisure providers Freedom Leisure to ensure services continue locally, in contrast to closures or reduced hours elsewhere in the UK.
The decision was signed off behind closed doors last week by the council’s Executive Board after several weeks of discussions.
Across the UK the leisure sector has been lobbying UK Government for support in what is claimed to be an already fragile service area that is recovering from the impact of the pandemic, and still suffering from reduced footfall. Some data indicates energy costs can be a leisure service operators second highest outgoing after staffing – with wider reports that local provider Freedom Leisure has seen its annual energy bill grow from £8m to £20m across the UK.
Last month we asked senior councillors about the energy crisis, referring to an article where we detailed a range of leisure providers across the UK being bailed out and supported by local councils, and were pointed to a report due this month with no further comment forthcoming.
The report has now been decided upon by the Executive Board however the contents is secret via the “Part 2” process, so the details of who is getting what and why is officially not public.
It is publicly known that the report was “… obtain approval to implement the recommended mitigations to sustain the delivery of Leisure Management Services within the Borough” via a ‘variation’ in the council’s leisure contract.
We are told by some council insiders the contract in question is the main leisure provision via Freedom Leisure, who run nine centres locally such as Waterworld on behalf of the local authority, and could see a six figure sum being paid by Wrexham Council to help the firm deal with energy costs – with the figure described to us as ‘large’.
The move is publicly described as a ‘mitigation measure’ and will ‘recognise the significant increase to energy costs relative to the overall cost of the leisure provision’
The council hope the outcome will ensure that leisure services continue to be provided to the people of Wrexham – and neighbouring counties.
Some other detail has emerged, with the plan timeframe being given as ‘over the remainder of the initial contract period’ and could be subject to ‘adaptation and development if and when required, in line with changing markets and government support’ – the council have a contract with Freedom Leisure until 2026.
Full details of the figures involved will likely be made public in the future.
Elsewhere Freedom Leisure have turned down the temperatures of pools in the south east of England, and closed a pool at Rye Sports Centre. It has been reported council bailouts of £750k were reduced to £350k in New Forest, with other centres having reduced hours being brought in to deal with the impact of energy crisis.
Wrexham Council have helped in a similar manner during the pandemic with a ‘up to £500k’ bailout locally to Freedom Leisure.
Wealden Leisure Ltd, trading as Freedom Leisure, did not respond to our request for comment.
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