A leisure group boss has warned of “difficult decisions” to be made after six months of financial turmoil, including a £500,000 repair bill for storm-damaged Perth swimming pool.
Mike Robinson, chairman at Live Active Leisure (LAL), revealed that more than £1 million of reserves had been used up to help safeguard jobs and maintain facilities during lockdown.
The organisation, which is responsible for sports and fitness complexes across Perth and Kinross, has recently reopened some of its facilities.
But Perth Leisure Pool remains closed after torrential rainstorms in August left its pump room under 16 ft of water.
The pool is now unlikely to reopen until next year.
Mr Robinson said he was delighted to welcome back customers “albeit to quite a different sport and leisure experience.”
He said: “As with any business over the last six months, Live Active Leisure has faced unprecedented challenges.
“Income levels have dropped to almost zero, and fixed expenditure costs have had to be managed over this period.”
He said: “We clearly rely on customer income to operate but with social distancing rules it is unlikely that income levels will return to pre-covid levels for some time.”
Mr Robinson said LAL’s principal partner Perth and Kinross Council had remained supportive. “We remain hopeful that sector specific support, which has been absent so far, will be provided from the government at some point in the near future,” he said.
“But as a board, we have had to step in quickly, committing over £1m from the company’s reserves to ensure our staff and venues are supported as best we can in the interim.”
He said: “With staff returning from furlough, ongoing venue costs and capacity constraints in place due to social distancing requirements, significant financial pressures are going to continue and it is inevitable that some difficult decisions will have to be considered in the future.
“However, we firmly believe that our venues and services are an essential part of the social fabric of the area, and that fitness and leisure are more important than ever to local quality of life.
“There has never been a greater need than there is right now to ensure that our communities have the opportunity to take part in regular exercise, to improve their physical and mental wellbeing and resilience to illness.”
He apologised for being unable to open all venues at once. “Obviously, we need to be compliant with various guidelines to ensure our customers and staff are safe.
“We were unfortunate to be hit so hard by flooding after the recent thunderstorms which caused way in excess of £500,000 of damage to Perth Leisure Pool and some areas of Bell’s Sports Centre.”
He asked the public to “remain patient with us while we navigate these difficult times”.
Perth City Swim Club has been left without a home pool due to the continued closure of the Glasgow Road facility.
The club have managed to return to limited training at Loch Leven Pool but are seeking help to try and get back to pre-lockdown training schedules.
Perth City and current host club Kinross Otters have written to facility management Live Active Leisure to urge them to create more pool training time for their 200 young swimmers.
Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Mr Fraser has taken up the clubs’ cause with Perth Leisure Pool likely to remain out of action until next year.
He said: “I understand that Live Active Leisure is facing some financial difficulties, but it is important for them to do all they can to get these swimming clubs back to full speed.”
SNP MP Pete Wishart said the new pool was now a “pressing priority”.
He said: “For years now the prospect of this facility has been dangled in front of the people of Perth and we must have this realised.”