Cardiff leisure services to be reviewed following 50% drop in attendance due to Covid-19
A review of Cardiff’s leisure facilities and operations, provided by social enterprise GLL, is being planned to address the impact of Covid-19.

The pandemic, which has seen attendances fall by around 50%, the cancellation of 20% of direct-debit memberships and sales of new memberships fall by 23%, has, according to the report, had a “significant impact on the financial performance of the contract.”

Subject to agreement at a Cabinet meeting, due to take place on November 19th, the council will work together with GLL to undertake a review of all facilities and operations.

The aim of the review will be to address the long-term sustainability of the contract and ensure continuity of service provision by identifying potential variations to the 15 year contract, which commenced in 2016.

Since the start of the pandemic, the council has been working on an ‘open book’ basis with GLL and has provided £1 million of supplier relief funding to help keep staff employed. A further £1.1 million could be required to cover the remaining losses by the end of the current financial year and the Council will continue to seek support from Welsh Government to keep the business stable during the peak of the pandemic.

Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure, Cllr Peter Bradbury said: “Prior to the pandemic, the contract with GLL had delivered £14 million of social impact value. It had allowed the council to eliminate its £3.5 million annual subsidy for leisure, and not just keep all eight facilities open but also secure the capital investment needed to provide residents with improved facilities – such as the refurbished leisure centre in Fairwater.

“One of our goals is to increase participation in physical activity and the contract with GLL was helping make that happen, with attendances up by 35,000 on the year before - but Covid-19 has changed the game completely.

“Ultimately this review is about doing what we can to make sure that in the face of unprecedented pressures, not just on GLL, but across the leisure industry, residents still have access to the high quality leisure services they deserve once the pandemic is over.

“Up to this point we’ve been able to work with GLL to ensure that no jobs have been lost. Now we need to identify where the biggest challenges lie, consider any opportunities for innovation and modernisation, so that we can attract investment, continue to increase participation and ensure the long-term future of the service.”

The facilities operated by GLL and covered by the review are:

  • Llanishen Leisure Centre
  • Pentwyn Leisure Centre
  • Fairwater Leisure Centre
  • Western Leisure Centre
  • Eastern Leisure Centre
  • Maindy Centre
  • STAR Hub
  • Penylan Library and Community Centre

Rhys Jones, Head of Service for Better Cardiff, added: “We are grateful for the ongoing positive discussions with Cardiff Council and are committed to finding a way to deliver quality leisure services for the communities in Cardiff throughout the crisis and in the future. The pandemic has been devastating for the industry. The closure of all leisure facilities across Wales for over five months during lockdown, coupled with the requirement to operate at reduced capacity in order to comply with social distancing, has resulted in a significant loss of revenue for us, which is impossible to recoup. We look forward to welcoming customers back again next week following a two week closure for the latest Welsh lockdown.”