Islington Council bails out leisure firm GLL - again

The Sobell Leisure Centre, run by GLL for Islington Council

The Sobell Leisure Centre, run by GLL for Islington Council - Credit: Google

Islington Council has agreed another bailout for leisure centre operator GLL.

The Town Hall deferred GLL’s rent payments to the tune of more than £1.2 million last year, as well as paying an undisclosed sum towards the maintenance of its assets.

The council's executive has now agreed to defer the company’s rent payments for a second year – one that GLL has predicted will be even more challenging.

Money will be recouped from its future profits.

A council report on the decision states: “One of the ongoing concerns is the financial position of GLL as an organisation. If GLL were to fail as an organisation then the leisure provision would have to move in-house initially, which would pose a significant financial risk to the council.”

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At a meeting of the council's executive on March 18 when the decision was made, health and social care boss Cllr Nurullah Turan said: “Membership levels have fallen significantly and are significantly lower than pre-lockdown levels, so a further period of support is required to allow GLL to be able to open the leisure centres when they are able to.

“Once they are open, GLL will not require further direct financial support from the council and will be able to operate as they used to.”

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Leisure centres reopened last July, but the second lockdown between November and early December “dented” customer confidence, according to a council report.

Centres closed once again with the third January lockdown and remain closed, with no date set for reopening.

Outdoor sports are able to start up again from March 29, and the feasibility of reopening sites including Market Road Football Pitches is under review. Indoor sports and group exercise will not return any earlier than May 17. 

During the third lockdown, GLL’s centres across the borough, including Archway, Highbury and Sobell leisure centres as well as Cally Pool, Ironmonger Row Baths and the Islington Tennis Centre, have been in “deep hibernation”, according to the council, with a small skeleton staff carrying out building checks and inspections.

The company hopes to reach 80 per cent of pre-Covid trading levels by next year.

GLL was approached for comment.

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