Waterfront leisure centre in Woolwich
The Waterfront in Woolwich is one of GLL’s centres

Greenwich Council is to spend up to £810,000 to support its leisure and library operator GLL, whose income was reduced to zero during the coronavirus lockdown.

The council will extend its contract with GLL by five years to 2031 as part of the arrangement – which it says will save it £400,000 a year.

GLL, which trades as Better, was forced to close its leisure centres and libraries in March, meaning it lost all its sources of income. The council will top up the salaries of staff who were furloughed, providing them with their full wages rather than just 80 per cent.

It will also pay GLL’s maintenance costs on each site as well as its usual management fees.

Some larger libraries reopened on 6 July while leisure centres will welcome their first visitors on Saturday. Charlton Lido reopened last week.

Senior councillors approved the move without discussion at a cabinet meeting yesterday. The documents provided to the public do not break down the costs of the deal, but state that the council will have a maximum liability of £810,000.

“Without urgent intervention, the Council’s Leisure and Library partnership is likely to suffer significant financial harm,” the report says.

“The proposed support package for the Royal Borough of Greenwich’s leisure partnership with GLL will not only ensure the preservation of leisure and library services in the borough, once lockdown ends, but it will ensure the partnership is sufficiently resourced to continue to press ahead with the council’s ambitious plans to support the health and wellbeing of our residents.”

GLL was founded out of Greenwich Council’s leisure services department in 1993 and now runs 270 centres across the country – yesterday’s agreement only applies to its facilities in Greenwich, where it runs seven leisure centres and 12 libraries.

Last month GLL’s managing director, Mark Sesnan, said the government’s decision to permit pubs to reopen before leisure centre “defies logic”.

Other London boroughs where GLL operate include Camden, Croydon, Islington, Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest.

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