Secretary of State for Local Government, Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, has been urged by Bedford Conservative Leader, Cllr Graeme Coombes, to create a fairer system of COVID financial support for local authorities, with regard to their leisure services and has been asked for a ‘level playing field’.
During a recent Council debate on Bedford’s leisure centres, many of which remain closed under controversial leisure operator Fusion, it was pointed out that Councils managing leisure service in- house currently get a better COVID support deal than those Councils who have outsourced the service.
Cllr Coombes has since written to the Secretary of State asking him to “review the rules on financial support and consider how a more level playing field might be achieved, by supporting those Councils who have outsourced sports and leisure services in addition to those who have not.”
He writes further, “Whilst it is public knowledge that Government has already given billions of pounds in financial support to local government during the pandemic, it is surely only right that with regard to leisure services, the Government supports local authorities equally and fairly”.
Most Bedford leisure centres currently remain closed, whilst the Borough Council is locked in negotiations with leisure operator Fusion to get them re-opened. Fusion has previously requested significant financial support from the Council, which the Mayor has granted, though only Robinson Pool and Mowsbury Golf Course were re-opened prior to the latest lockdown.
Conservative Group Leader, Cllr Graeme Coombes commented:
“When made aware of it, I was happy to write to the Secretary of State pointing out the COVID funding anomaly. It is vital that the Government supports all Councils equally and this particularly important in Bedford, where many of our leisure centres, outsourced under the management of Fusion, still remain closed.”