- Bedford Council to pay total of £632,600 in financial assistance to Fusion Lifestyle to get Robinson Pool re-opened
- Despite this, users of the facilities told to minimise their use of changing rooms
- Council can’t give any indication of when all Borough leisure facilities will be reopened
- Mayor’s decision will not be open to scrutiny
Bedford’s Mayor has again handed more taxpayer cash to troubled leisure operator Fusion Lifestyle, who will receive another £632k windfall from public funds, despite the majority of the Borough’s leisure facilities remaining closed. The latest payments including £273,000 in financial aid and £315,000 of deferred loan payments up to March 2021 come on top of £54,700 a month currently being handed to Fusion since last May. The Mayor has also refused to allow his decision to be open to public scrutiny by Councillors.
The additional cash was agreed after a recent request from Fusion for “significant financial support” in order to re-open Bedford Borough’s leisure facilities, which, with the sole exception of Mowsbury Golf Course, remained closed, despite Government guidelines allowing them to re-open since 25th July.
The financial deal with Fusion can be seen as a big failure for Leisure Portfolio Holder, Cllr Doug McMurdo, whose tortured negotiations with Fusion have resulted in considerable cost to the Bedford taxpayer, with only the re-opening of Robinson Pool to show for it. Other Borough leisure facilities will remain closed, with no indication from the Council as to when they might re-open, or whether yet more public money will be handed to Fusion in order to do so.
Under the agreement with Fusion, users of the facilities will have to minimise the use of changing facilities, to comply with COVID guidelines.
This extra money for Fusion comes at a time when the Mayor has recently been decrying the Borough’s financial situation.
Leader of the Conservative Group, Cllr Graeme Coombes commented:
“I am astonished by the Mayor’s decision to give yet more public money to failed leisure operator Fusion and to try and sneak this out and keep it from the public, without the opportunity for it to be properly scrutinised by elected Councillors. Openness is not his strongpoint, but I believe it’s important that the wider public know what he does in their name. Only last week the Mayor was complaining about difficult financial picture with a projected budget shortfall, but can we believe him when it seems like it’s a bottomless pit where Fusion are concerned?
The experiment with Fusion has turned into an expensive farce with leisure users being asked to minimise their use of changing facilities to comply with COVID guidelines, whilst Fusion get yet more cash for doing less work. It’s time the Council ran the facilities for the benefit of the Bedford public, rather than for the highly paid Fusion management. ”
Deputy Leader of the Conservative Group, Cllr Roger Rigby also commented:
“Bedford Council has signed up to a very one-sided contract with Fusion. Only this week, Council workmen have been seen undertaking repairs to Oasis Pool, despite an initial £3m being given to Fusion at the start of their contract specifically for repairs and renovation. It seems we have to keep funnelling ever more money to Fusion, whilst they appear to do much less than they are contractually obliged to. Just what are we paying Fusion for?”