Freedom Leisure’s plea to council for financial bailout

When Hastings Borough Council’s cabinet meets later tonight it will be asked to consider a request from Freedom Leisure for financial assistance.

The issue, which will be dealt with in private, is thought to involve the operator of the Summerfields Leisure Centre and Falaise asking the council to cover very significant financial losses sustained by the company during the period of the Covid-19 lockdown.

Despite repeated attempts we have been unable to contact Freedom Leisure for a comment and a spokesman for the council would only say: “We have no comment to make due to commercial confidentiality.”

Last week national media reported that the UK as a whole was at risk of losing up to half of all its public swimming pools and leisure centres before Christmas unless financial assistance was forthcoming.

“The UK is sleepwalking into the loss of thousands of community gyms and leisure centres which form part of the fabric of our society and serve as the frontline of the NHS,” said Huw Edwards, the chief executive of UK Active. “Without public leisure facilities, our communities will be deprived of the social, physical and mental health benefits that will be vital in our continued battle and recovery from Covid-19.”

Mark Tweedie, the chief executive of Community Leisure UK, said it was vital politicians and the public recognised that sports centres provided a range of services, from children’s swimming lessons and meeting areas for parents and babies groups, that put them at the heart of their communities: “The public need to be made fully aware that their cherished public leisure services are at risk because, due to income losses, local authorities will not be capable of financially sustaining them through the Covid-19 crisis without government financial support,” he said.

“Public leisure centres are at the heart of communities – they are places where communities connect and they serve all age ranges and abilities, from parents with babies, through to sports clubs, walking groups and gentle exercise classes for the less fit,” he added.

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