LiveWire and Warrington Borough Council have announced proposed cost-saving measures aimed at protecting leisure and library services, including the possible closure of Culcheth Community Campus, following a £3.2m loss of income during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The cost-saving measures aimed at safeguarding the long-term future of leisure and library services are being proposed after the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic resulted in a substantial £3.2m loss of income.
There will be a joint consultation exercise forming part of a process to consider the permanent closure of Culcheth Community Campus leisure site while consideration is being given to moving Birchwood Library into Birchwood Leisure Centre.
Once they are able to one after lockdown leisure centres and libraries will continue to operate at reduced hours until they can reach full capacity, while Westbrook Library will remain closed until a sustainable re-opening plan can be delivered.
LiveWire, a not-for-profit Community Interest Company, manages leisure and library services on behalf of Warrington Borough Council, operating three multi-service neighbourhood hubs, three community leisure centres and nine community libraries across Warrington as well as delivering a health and wellbeing service known as Lifestyles and a number of free community outreach programmes.
This year’s Covid-19 pandemic has seen LiveWire’s leisure and library sites closed for a large proportion of the year, severely impacting on the vital commercial income generated through avenues such as Leisure memberships, which have yet to return to pre-lockdown levels.
LiveWire has launched a new ‘At Home’ membership platform to help members stay active and address the challenges of the ongoing pandemic, as well as accessing the Government’s Job Retention Scheme.
However a £3.2M drop in commercial income since lockdown, plus the ongoing uncertainty surrounding future lockdowns and ongoing social distancing measures, means significant savings must be made to protect the future of the delivery of leisure and library provision in the borough.
Proposed cost-saving measures announced today jointly by LiveWire and Warrington Borough Council are:
· The launch of a joint consultation exercise forming part of a process to consider the permanent closure of Culcheth Community Campus leisure site.
· The Birchwood Library offer to move into Birchwood Leisure & Tennis Complex following a redesign, in keeping with the LiveWire Hub approach to service delivery. This is being considered as part of the ongoing libraries modernisation programme, supported by the Libraries Partnership Board.
· Leisure and Library sites to continue to operate reduced opening hours until full capacity is reached and customer demand exceeds availability. For the same reasons Westbrook Library to remain closed until a sustainable re-opening plan can be delivered.
Emma Hutchinson, Managing Director of LiveWire, said: “We are not unique in facing significant challenges as a result of this pandemic but it has had a huge impact on us in terms of income and we do need to take steps to address how to preserve our services moving forward. We know people love their local leisure and library services, and we’re doing everything we can to protect these. We’re also trying to preserve local jobs. These are incredibly difficult decisions we do not take lightly.
“Since our inception, LiveWire’s mission has been to improve the wellbeing of Warrington’s residents and address health inequalities in our communities. This is more important than ever. We want to make sure that all residents can access leisure and libraries services provided by LiveWire however these services inevitably may have to change given the challenges and uncertainty of the ongoing pandemic.
“Moving forward, we need the support of our members and the Warrington community. If you can, please sign up for LiveWire@Home during the lockdown period. And when we reopen, and you are in a position to, please restart your membership, to help us weather this storm and allow us to maintain services moving forward.”
Councillor Tony Higgins, WBC’s Cabinet Member for Leisure and Community, said: “We are proud of our leisure and libraries offer in Warrington and we know how valuable they are to local people. The last thing we want to do is change or reduce these services. However, the unprecedented challenges and huge financial impact of Covid-19, means we have no choice but to consider cost-saving proposals.
“By acting now, we can help safeguard the future of these services, increase our resilience against the ongoing uncertainty caused by the pandemic and protect jobs. I would like to reassure everyone we will do all we can to limit the impact any measures will have on the community”
The consultation survey and accompanying background information can be found here: https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/wbclivewireculchethcampus/