Councillors at Cotswold District Council (CDC) have agreed to another financial support package capped at £291,146 to the private company which operates its leisure centres and the Corinium Museum in Cirencester. The new financial package will guarantee these facilities will remain open until at least March 2021. The proposal was unanimously supported by all councillors.
The latest financial support package is the second additional payment made available to SLM Everyone Active after the council agreed to give the large private company a grant of £222,140 in August so it could operate throughout the August to October period.
At the time, the Liberal Democrat administration was heavily criticised by the opposition Conservative group for awarding SLM a grant rather than a loan, meaning there was no prospect of any taxpayer money being returned to Cotswold taxpayers.
However, the Conservative group last night welcomed the news that the administration had this time negotiated a profit share mechanism for the second financial support package, meaning CDC is now entitled to take a 75% share of profits until the £291,146 is paid back.
Nevertheless, opposition councillors pressured the administration to come up with a Plan B on the leisure centres, so CDC and its taxpayers were not left in a continuous perpetual circle of having to bail out a large private company in order to keep their leisure facilities and museum open. As a result, it was agreed a cross-party group be set up ASAP to look at alternative options which could possibly include taking the management of these facilities back in-house or finding alternative operators.
Cllr Richard Morgan, Leader of the Opposition Conservative Group said,
“We are relieved and grateful the Lib Dems have taken notice of our objections to the original grant back in August, and have now negotiated a 75% profit share on the second financial support package which means Cotswold residents may have some chance of getting some of their money back.”
“We totally support keeping our leisure centres and museum open, and we would like to thank SLM who have been good, long term strategic partners of this council since 2013. However, as a council, we need to get in front of this issue and prepare a plan B so we have leverage and alternatives in place and ready for February when SLM may potentially come back to us and request more taxpayer money. For this reason, I would again like to thank the Lib Dems for agreeing to set up a cross-party working group ASAP to research and consider the councils best options”.
The financial package requested by SLM was smaller than originally requested because the Corinium Museum in Cirencester has received a lifeline grant worth £121,000 as part of the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund (CRF).