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Council agrees £500,000 loan for Lewes district leisure centres

Lewes District Council is providing a £500,000 loan to Wave Leisure Trust to help restart gym, swim and exercise classes for people across the Lewes district amid the trust's financial difficulties caused by the pandemic.

Cabinet members agreed the financial support at a meeting today (Thursday, September 24) after hearing that Wave, a long-term council partner, is facing a deficit of around £1.5 million by the end of this year due to lockdown, coronavirus restrictions and being ineligible for various government support schemes.

The government instructed all leisure centres to close on March 20 and they were allowed to re-open from July 25 only if strict health and safety measures including social distancing were put in place.

|Unlike the other local authorities Wave partners with to provide leisure facilities, Lewes District Council does not pay the trust a service fee.

Councillor Zoe Nicholson, Cabinet member for Finance, said: "It is of vital importance that residents across the Lewes district are able to access leisure facilities within a safe environment for the benefit of their physical and mental wellbeing, especially during this challenging time.

"Wave is not alone among the country's leisure operators in facing financial hardship but its difficulties are compounded because the government has failed to fulfil its promises and provide support to leisure services like Wave all over the country.

"We have had a long and successful relationship with Wave, which is an award-winning provider as a charitable trust, and we cannot let it fail because the government can't fulfil its responsibilities."

Cllr Ruth O'Keeffe, Cabinet Member for Tourism and Devolution, said: "Significantly, Wave has previously demonstrated to us that it has increased participation and reduced health inequality across our district, as well as improving accessibility and social inclusion. It is important that we support the continuation of this excellent work."

Wave has prepared a re-mobilisation plan for sites to re-open in three phases with a focus on providing gym, swim and booked-only group exercise classes.

Covid-19 safety measures include removal of turnstiles, erection of screens at reception points, hand sanitiser stations and one-way systems.