Wigan Council in the UK will take back the management of all its leisure centres and wellbeing services from 1 April 2021, following a 'mutual agreement to safeguard jobs and services'.
The services in Wigan Borough – which include seven leisure centres, a range of outdoor sports spaces and a plethora of community wellbeing initiatives – have been operated by Inspiring Healthy Lifestyles Ltd (IHL), the trading name of Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust, since 2003.
From April, the responsibility for managing the assets will be transferred back to the council. It's not yet clear what will happen to IHL, whose current directors are Dawn Heaton, Peter Burt, David Lea and Catherine Wilks.
Peter Burt speaks on the Why Sports Building Back Better webinar.
The move comes as the pandemic lockdowns and the forced closures of leisure facilities have placed extreme pressures on contract operators.
"Last year was an extremely difficult year for businesses, including Inspiring healthy lifestyles," said Gareth Cross, chair of the board of trustees for IHL.
“The impact on the leisure, culture and wellbeing sector has been significant.
"Wigan Council and Inspiring healthy lifestyles have been working together to determine the best way forward in these challenging times.
"Our shared priority is to safeguard jobs and to protect the continued provision of physical activity, wellbeing and leisure services for residents and communities.
"From 1 April 2021, all services currently operated by Inspiring Healthy Lifestyles in Wigan and Leigh will be run by Wigan Council, safeguarding jobs and these vital services for the communities they serve."
According to councillor Chris Ready, cabinet member responsible for leisure, the move will secure the long-term future of the facilities.
"We've been very clear that we need to protect these vital services for residents and the fantastic staff that work in our leisure centres and open spaces," he said.
"Despite the financial impact of COVID-19 on the leisure sector, we can protect staff and services for residents and members of our leisure centres in this way."
Estimates show that the UK physical activity sector will lose around £400m each month during lockdown, while costing the NHS £7.25m a week in lost social value.
According to industry body ukactive, the physical activity sector is in need of "bespoke and substantial financial support" in order for it to survive the pandemic.
Source - Sports Parks and Leisure