Cornwall Council is calling on residents, community groups and organisations to have their say about how leisure services should be provided in Cornwall.

St Ives Leisure Centre
St Ives Leisure Centre: operated by GLL, but not earmarked for closure

A consultation launches today which sets out proposals aimed at providing residents with leisure facilities that are accessible, affordable, and which provide the best value for money. It recognises, however, that the pandemic has made it difficult to operate some services in Cornwall.

The majority of Cornwall’s leisure centres are currently run by the non-profit social enterprise GLL, which operates under the Better brand. GLL manages 13 leisure centres on behalf of the council, but closures during lockdown periods and reduced visitor numbers have had a significant impact on its income over the last 18 months, creating losses of approximately £4.5m.

Following discussions with Cornwall Council, GLL has requested either a change to its current contract, which would mean it stops operating four leisure centres — Saltash, Launceston, Wadebridge, and Ships and Castles in Falmouth — and the hydrotherapy pool at the centre in St Austell, or for Cornwall Council to subsidise these facilities.

As part of the consultation process, the council is inviting local groups and organisations with ideas about how to deliver financially sustainable leisure services to come forward and work alongside the council and GLL to develop a new set of proposals about the leisure offering.

James Curry, GLL’s head of service for Cornwall, said: “In unprecedented times, these proposed changes are very much a last resort and follow a close review of all the options for us an operator.

“As a not-for-profit charitable social enterprise we have used up our small cash reserves. We’ve been partially or fully closed for much of the last 18 months and unable to generate the revenues needed to operate the service at sustainable levels. Centres re-opened on 12th April, 2021, under ongoing restrictions, which were not lifted until 19th July.

“With a business still operating at 75% of 2019 levels, GLL were left with no choice but to seek further support from Cornwall Council. Where our business model has previously supported the loss making centres in Cornwall, it was regrettably not possible to do this in the current climate and meet our contractual obligations.

“We will be supporting the council’s community consultation and hope it identifies suitable and sustainable alternative operating models for these centres.”

• You can read the draft strategy and complete the survey anonymously on the Let’s Talk Cornwall website.