FUNDING has been pledged to the district’s leisure services despite uncertainty surrounding the financial future of the service provider.

Documents from last week’s West Oxfordshire District Council (WODC) cabinet meeting show that representatives of GLL - the council’s leisure management contractor - were ‘concerned for the financial sustainability of the company’.

The documents further show that GLL, commonly known as Better, requested the council waive the management fee payment due, at £69,024 per month.

The cabinet decided to defer four months worth of these payments, totalling £276,096.

See also: Hopes for museum despite demolition decision

The decision of a payment of £263,581 will also be delegated to the chief finance officer, in conjunction with Toby Morris, cabinet member for resources.

GLL has also requested that the council tops up furloughed staff salaries by making up the 20 per cent difference so staff can receive their full salary.

Michele Mead, cabinet member for health and leisure, said: “When lockdown started, what people may have forgotten is that the leisure industry has gone through the cracks.

“Our contractor has had zero income yet has had to keep people in for maintenance of the buildings and other jobs too.

“Our centres have been amazing - in Chipping Norton the centre has been used as a foodbank, whilst in Carterton it’s been used as a Covid-19 testing centre.

Witney Gazette:

“What GLL is looking for is how we can help them recover their costs.

“Generally, GLL has paid a monthly fee which the council has deferred.

“Work needs to be done on what GLL can claim and we can help them out as much as possible.

“We’ve worked together right from the start, we’ve got a really good partnership with GLL.”

However, one councillor has warned that supporting GLL could come back to bite the council.

Read more: Summer school seeking funding and stationary

Jake Acock proposes loaning the money to GLL, rather than a grant.

He said: “We’re in unprecedented times, that’s undoubted, but we’re talking about the possibility of this costing the council £1m.

“This is probably one of the biggest financial commitments the council will have to make in the next few months and in the last few years too.

“GLL hasn’t had any income and it needs to be known how much it’s been hit financially.

“We’d like to get these centres back open as the council has a commitment to provide the best leisure service, but there shouldn’t be a blank cheque given to GLL, we’re talking about a massive amount of money.

Read also: Law student caught with crack cocaine and heroin spared jail

“I always believe there should be a long-term approach and it needs to be considered if GLL was to go bust due to a second wave or other circumstances.”

The Government announced the closure of all gyms and leisure centres from March 21, with a reopening date earmarked for July 4.

A spokesperson for GLL said: “GLL is a social enterprise and not-for-profit organisation. We work on very small margins and reinvest any surpluses back in to our communities.

“With no income during the past 13 weeks of lockdown and the business in hibernation, GLL has looked at what funding and support is available through closure and back to reopening.

Witney Gazette:

“We have, along with every other leisure operator in the UK, asked for financial support from our local authority partners, to enable us to protect jobs and safeguard their public services, which will be in greater demand when we reopen.

“We are pleased that WODC has identified support for their leisure centres.”

In Chipping Norton, the leisure centre has been used as a foodbank, with former Prime Minister David Cameron one of the volunteers.

Town councillor Rizvana Poole said earlier in the lockdown that the leisure centre and Better had been a great support to the foodbank and contributed a key portion of volunteers.