REDUNDANCIES are likely at the New Forest’s five council-run leisure centres after it emerged that a number of classes and exercise groups have been unable to restart in a Covid-safe way.
The New Forest District Council-owned facilities at New Milton, Lymington, Ringwood, Totton and Applemore all reopened to the public in early August, with enhanced cleaning, hand sanitiser stations and one-way systems.
To maintain social distancing, class sizes were reduced and markers were placed on the floor to enable customers to spread out. Gym equipment was also moved, screens were installed and bookings were spread out over 15-minute intervals.
However, Cllr Mark Steel, the portfolio holder for health and wellbeing admitted that despite a successful reopening, the authority still faced many challenges in the coming months.
In an address to NFDC’s cabinet, Cllr Steel said: “We have not been able to return all activities, and we will not be able to for the foreseeable future, and this has required us to review our staffing resources in some areas.”
The meeting heard that the Swim Academy lessons restarted on 21st September, and due to “very high demand” there was currently a waiting list for classes. Cllr Steel said: “I want to thank our customers for their patience and support in working with us to provide a service through these very difficult times.”
Cllr Steel went on to praise the “brilliant” health and leisure centre staff, adding: “They are working hard to provide a safe place for our customers to exercise. They have adapted very well to their new way of working.”
Speaking to the A&T on Monday, Cllr Steel said most clubs which could be accommodated within the new Covid-secure requirements have now also now re-started. He added that a six-for-£60 offer was also being made available for new and previous members.
Cllr Steel concluded: “Although we were able to open all five centres in early August, and resume our swim academy in September, unfortunately we have not been able to restart all the activities that previously took place in the centres.
“We do not have the additional space required to make these activities viable under covid-secure requirements.”
“This has had the greatest impact on group exercise classes and reductions in the hours staff are required to work, and therefore is likely to result in some redundancies.
“This is not a situation we would wish to find ourselves in, as our staff are at the heart of what we do at the centres. We are currently consulting with them, and unions, on this staffing review and expect to know the outcome by the end of October.”