Contractual dispute blamed for month-long delay, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter
The borough’s main leisure operator has faced criticism after its sports centres stayed shut nearly four weeks after the government allowed them to re-open – with Enfield Council claiming it had asked for an extra £1million to do so.
Fusion Lifestyle closed its council-owned centres across Enfield in March as the nation went into coronavirus lockdown. But despite being given the green light by the government to re-open on 25th July, many centres remained shut.
Southgate, Edmonton, Southbury and Albany leisure centres are now all due to re-open later this week. There is still no re-opening time listed for a fifth borough leisure centre, Arnos Pool.
The delays to re-opening were criticised for having an adverse impact on the health and fitness of local people who rely on them. Joanne Laban, the Conservative group leader, said: “We understand that with social distancing measures the use of leisure centres will not be the same, but exercise is important in terms of people’s mental health, fitness and wellbeing.”
Enfield Swim Squad had criticised the council on Twitter prior to the first centres re-opening, saying that “disabled and able-bodied swimmers’ physical and mental health” was being “adversely affected”.
Last week the council issued a statement revealing Fusion had asked it to subsidise the re-opening of leisure centres in the borough and pay costs over and above those laid out in its contract with the leisure provider.
Council leader Nesil Caliskan said: “Over the past few weeks, Enfield Council has made it clear to Fusion that we expect them to open up all the leisure centres in the borough. But we were not willing to hand over £1million, which is essentially what Fusion were asking for and presumably opposition members wanted us to do.
“Instead, Enfield Council has held Fusion to account on their contract and fought hard to ensure value for money for Enfield residents.”
Fusion Lifestyle took over control of the council’s leisure centres in 2010. A spokesperson said: “We know our leisure facilities are really important for the health and wellbeing of the local community, and we have been working in partnership with Enfield Council to get them open again as soon as they are safe and viable to do so.
“Therefore, we are so pleased to announce that will be phasing the re-opening of our centres. Southbury, Edmonton, Albany and Southgate leisure centres will open on [Thursday] 20th August.
“We are reviewing our plans for the remaining facilities and will open these when they are safe and viable to do so. We hope residents of Enfield will bear with us while we implement our re-opening plans and they can soon enjoy their centres once again.”