Council considers recovery and renewal plan for KA Leisure

The KA Leisure is based at Arran High School.

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The organisation which provides gym and sports facilities on Arran has come up with a recovery and renewal plan which aims to help it build back from the Covid-19 pandemic.

KA Leisure, which operates leisure facilities and activities across North Ayrshire, has been badly affected by the lockdown restrictions over the past year.

The Arran Community Sport Hub at Arran High School provides a number of sports halls, a theatre, seven-a-side 3G sports pitch and a well-equipped fitness suite open to both residents and visitors to the island, but has been closed for most of the pandemic.

With restrictions still in place and expected to continue in the short term, that poses ongoing financial challenges for leisure facilities across the country.

A report, considered by the council cabinet this week, shows how KA Leisure is responding to the challenges of the pandemic against a backdrop of a drop in visitor numbers – from 2,663,489 in 2019/20 to a projected figure of 208,604 for 2020/21, assuming tier four restrictions continue over the coming weeks.

In September last year, cabinet approved additional support to North Ayrshire Leisure Limited, which trades as KA Leisure, of up to £2.743m to ensure it continues to operate but the ongoing financial shortfall is expected to continue to present challenges in the months ahead.

The report for cabinet outlines KA Leisure’s proposed recovery and renewal strategy and highlights that additional financial support will be required from the council in the financial year ahead.

This will be considered within the context of additional Scottish government funding and as part of the council’s financial monitoring arrangements. Strong partnership arrangements continue to underpin the joint planning.

KA Leisure chairman Gary Higgon said: ‘The current pandemic, which has necessitated many site and activity closures has proved extremely challenging for KA Leisure in the last year.

‘The support from our partners, and in particular, North Ayrshire Council has been pivotal, and very much appreciated in the continuance of our business.

‘The safety of both our customers and staff are of paramount importance to KA Leisure and with the support of North Ayrshire Council through the recovery and renewal plan, together with the hard work of our dedicated staff, we look forward to rebuilding and refreshing our service for the benefit of all North Ayrshire residents.’

North Ayrshire Council Leader Joe Cullinane said: ‘There’s no doubt that since March last year, KA Leisure has been hit hard by the restrictions.

‘Despite that, it has continued to try to provide services and activities to our residents amid trying circumstances and has introduced a series of innovations to help improve the health and wellbeing of customers, including a comprehensive digital programme.

‘It’s clear that as lockdown restrictions continue to affect all parts of Scotland and the UK, there will be no quick solution, but we are committed to providing support in the months ahead.

‘The council has made a significant commitment to support KA Leisure financially during the pandemic and we will continue to support it where we can with the financial pressures it faces and will be a key stakeholder in it developing its recovery and renewal plans.’