The Chair welcomed suggestions from Members to the work priorities. He addressed the current situation LED faced with Covid-19 and the support mechanism in place that could possibly continue while the leisure industry took time to recover.
Update from Peter Gilpin, LED Chief Executive
Before Peter Gilpin gave an update he suggested to include energy conservation as an ongoing item on the agenda to help reduce energy usage at the LED sites, particularly swimming pools. He advised it had been previously agreed at Cabinet and Council to look at Honiton swimming pool with the re-development of the changing rooms and reception and welcomed the consideration of other swimming pools and other leisure centres.
He advised Members it was difficult to update Members on the current situation as the direct debits were being collected at the end of this week so it was unknown how many memberships had been reactivated. Members noted at the end of October, before that last lockdown the membership and income had recovered to approximately 70%, to where it had been towards the end of 2019.
Concerns were raised about moving into tier 3 as this would have a significant impact. Peter advised tier 2 permitted the running of group exercise classes, gyms and swimming pools which was a significant part of their income. He advised December was traditionally the worst month for gym memberships but hoped to see an influx in the New Year. It was hoped by the end of January the income figure would be back up towards the 70% figure with a forecast of 80% at some point in 2021.
Peter advised the support from the council and the furlough scheme had been a huge welcome during lockdown. Quite a few staff were still on furlough with more staff being put on furlough over the Christmas period which would reduce staffing costs to about 55% of expenditure. Members noted staffing costs was LEDs biggest spend with utilities being the second at 20%.
He also advised during lockdown the heat had been switched off in all the swimming pools and the pumps and chlorination had been run at a very minimal level to maintain health and safety requirements.
Comments made by Non-Forum Members included:
· Welcomed energy conservation but suggested looking into how people travel to and from the sites.
· Suggested looking at plastics and wider environmental issues. In response Peter Gilpin welcomed the opportunity to review the use of plastics. He also suggested revisiting the provision of core leisure activities and trying to target the hard to reach groups.
· Need to look at what is provided in vending machine, replacing plastic bottles and providing healthier snacks;
· Need to ask people what they want in their communities, are we providing it and what can we do better;
· Make swimming pools changing rooms fit for purpose now and install gender neutral changing rooms;
· It is important to get the message out to inform residents of the relationship between the council and LED for full transparency and to be the best it can be;
· An important priority is to reduce health inequalities in the district. Offering discounted membership for people who are on means tested benefits.
· Another important priority is the need to get to grips with the upcoming government grant that LED and the council will be applying for to cover the lost income;
· A suggestion to start a campaign in secondary schools and primary schools to encourage young people
Comments made by Forum Members included:
· Councillor Arnott welcomed the new Chair and was delighted to see the Forum up and running. He advised the agenda had clearly identified the priorities that would assist LED to move forward financially through the pandemic;
· The agenda has done a good job of identifying the priorities to help LED move forward financially and more urgently how is the government going to help;
The Chair thanked Members for their contributions and advised a priority list would be prepared in advance of the next meeting and brought forward as an agenda item.
That the report be noted and a priority list brought back to the Forum.