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Save Cornwall's Leisure Facilities

17 March 2021.

I have been attending Cornwall Council Customers’ Scrutiny and Cabinet over the last two days.

One of the things that came up at both meetings was the precarious state of our leisure and sports centres. Most of them were contracted out to GLL in 2017, rebranded ‘Better’ and have received loans of Cornish council tax payers’ money to carry out repairs and because they have been struggling through Covid.

I raised concerns that these loans could be lost if GLL go bust. There seems to be no concrete security for the money and no obligation on what the money will be spent on, or even that it will be spent in Cornwall.

From news reports of the meetings –

Cllr Eathorne-Gibbons, the Cabinet member, told Labour councillor, Jayne Kirkham, that a package of loans advanced by the council to GLL, to facilitate the reopening of all of Cornwall’s leisure centres last October, should be recoverable. Ms Kirkham had sought reassurances that GLL had provided some security for the loans. “I just want to know that our money is safe,” she said.

Mr Eathorne-Gibbons said that it was. But Cllr Harris then drew attention to a report coming before the council’s cabinet today which states that £3.4 million was a simple accountancy exercise which will eventually be written off as bad debt.

Labour’s Jayne Kirkham said she was concerned that the council appeared to have loaned GLL £23.5 million yet had no contractual obligation to pay the living wage.

Earlier Mr Eathorne-Gibbons had said the council was considering other business models “in the event that GLL goes belly-up.” Asked by Ms Kirkham if those future models might include taking leisure back “in-house”, he said the council was engaged in a long-term strategic review which might not conclude until the autumn.

If Labour win a majority at Cornwall Council on 6 May, we will make sure our leisure centres are safe; back under the ownership and management of the people of Cornwall; and there will be no more ‘loans’ going to big national contractors who don’t pay the real living wage.

Princess Pavilions will be secure under Falmouth Town Council's ownership. Let's make sure the rest of our Cornish leisure facilities are safe too.

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