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West Suffolk Council agree loan for Abbeycroft Leisure

A loan facility of £1 million is to be provided for a west Suffolk gym provider to keep it going through coronavirus, ensuring council-run facilities can open.

Abbeycroft Leisure runs the gyms and leisure centres on behalf of West Suffolk Council, but found its income slashed after the Covid-19 lockdown came into force in March.

While a phased re-opening of leisure centres by the firm is to get underway from July 27, the council has warned that social distancing means it cannot operate in the same way as before.

West Suffolk House (38952265)
West Suffolk House (38952265)

A loan facility of up to £1m was agreed by the council’s cabinet on Tuesday night, which it can draw upon to meet costs such as maintenance and staffing.

Councillor Jo Rayner, portfolio holder for leisure and culture, said: “All of our leisure centres have been closed since March and this has resulted in a complete loss of income for Abbeycroft.

“We now know these leisure centres will be re-opening soon, so that is a really great step forward in our recovery from Covid.

“However it is going to provide a very different service from before, and it will impact on capacity and income for Abbeycroft.

“We have worked really closely with them to support them through this time. Despite the level of support and their own reserves Abbeycroft are facing significant losses.

“The future is unclear, so we are trying to seek a solution that will offer the level of support they really need with the flexibility of how and when they may use it.

“Abbeycroft deliver great social and health benefits to our community and we should be supporting them through this period to go on and deliver this work with our partner.”

The company runs five gyms on behalf of the council – Brandon, Bury St Edmunds, Haverhill, Newmarket and Mildenhall.

It was handed a £154,000 support package by the council to meet costs during lockdown, and was able to claim on some of the government’s business support programmes.

Most staff were also furloughed during that time to help prevent job losses.

According to the council, the loan will be interest free until March 2022, with the loan period offered until September 2026.

The council said it hoped the support will help keep Abbeycroft going during the financial uncertainty while helping protect authority’s leisure assets.

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