Fusion ask taxpayers for “financial support” amid leisure centre fiasco

The foreboding entrance to Oasis Pool isn't inviting.
The foreboding entrance to Oasis Pool isn't inviting.

Bedford Borough Council say Fusion lifestyle has asked taxpayers for “significant financial support” to help them reopen publicly owned leisure facilities across the borough.

Fusion lifestyle has come under significant criticism recently due to lack of communication with customers and facility users around the ongoing closures of local leisure facilities.

Swimming pools, gyms and other leisure facilities in the UK were given permission to open on 25 July.

But, Bedford’s have remained closed due to the slow decrease of coronavirus cases in the area.

However, yesterday (13 August), Bedford Borough Council’s local outbreak engagement board was told that there had been a reduction of cases from 19 to 11 per 100,000 in the last seven days.

Read: Coronavirus cases down across Bedford Borough

Now it’s been revealed that Fusion Lifestyle has asked for an undisclosed sum to enable them to open facilities locally.

Fusion manage eight leisure facilities on behalf of the council. Their contract is due to end in 2024, but there have been calls for the contract to be cancelled early.

Speaking to the Bedford Independent in July, Conservative Group Deputy Leader, Cllr. Roger Rigby, said: “Time and again Fusion has missed the Borough’s key performance indicators.

“If matters don’t improve, the Council may decide to terminate Fusion’s contract or indeed Fusion may choose to withdraw from it.”

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The Council say they are “continuing to work hard” to give Bedfordians safe access to the “vital services that these facilities provide, whilst also protecting staff.”

Robinson Pool
Robinson Pool is one of eight venues run by Fusion Lifestyle in Bedford and Kempston

But they have remained tight-lipped as to when closures will be reviewed or if a date for opening is on the horizon.

A spokesperson for the council commented that the council is “facing a huge financial challenge” in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

They estimate a funding gap of over £20million in their budget and are facing “difficult decisions” over the provision of their adult and children social care and statutory duties.

We asked them if they are seeking to cancel the contract with Fusion and how much cash the leisure operator has asked for but they did not reply by the time of publication.

However, Cllr Doug McMurdo, Portfolio Holder for Leisure said: “We will continue to encourage Fusion to improve their communications to customers and the wider public…”

A statement on Fusion’s website says: “the response we have received from our loyal customers has been overwhelmingly positive…

“Fusion is a registered charity; all the money we receive must be, and is, reinvested back into our facilities, and also funds, and often subsidises, the services that we provide.

“A significant amount of our customers receive discounted or subsidised prices, or specialised programmes and every penny helps to ensure we can reopen our doors when we have the go-ahead.”

They have also published a short list of FAQs relating to the closures and what is happening to refunds for cancelled pre-booked classes and membership fees.

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