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Following a visit to St Austell Leisure Centre, local MP Steve Double says he is confident that ‘everything necessary is in place to keep people safe’ and that ‘the old adage of use it or lose it definitely applies’.

St Austell was one of eight centres and three pools to reopen on 25 July in line with government guidelines. Run by charitable leisure social enterprise and not-for-profit organisation GLL, stringent safety measures were put in place to reduce the risk of infection. Six other facilities across Cornwall currently remain closed whilst lobbying continues for a government rescue package for the leisure industry, similar to the one recently awarded to the arts sector.

On hand to meet Mr Double and show him around were GLL’s Cornwall Head of Service James Curry, Senior General Manager Amelia Kitchen and Cornwall Councillor Mike Eathorne-Gibbons, Cabinet member with oversight of the leisure agreement between the Council and GLL.

“We were delighted to welcome Steve Double to the centre and show him the practical implications of being Covid-safe,” said James Curry. “We are lucky to have a sports hall at St Austell that has the space to run socially-distanced fitness classes, but other centres don’t have the same capacity. Many of our Cornish facilities, for example, can only take half the number of people they could in pre-Covid times and, after the huge losses GLL has suffered during the four months of lockdown, that presents us with a huge economic challenge.

“As a charity, GLL hasn’t been eligible for any government funding to date and that has led to a deep hole in our finances. We are doing our very best to run as many services as possible in Cornwall and are delighted with the excellent feedback we’re getting from customers. Our swim schools in Newquay, Truro and St Austell are scheduled to re-open this month and we are also hoping to open our Bodmin swimming pool. The grim reality, however, is that we are constrained by the safety regulations rightfully in place and, to get more centres open, we desperately need funding.”

Mr Double said he wanted to visit the leisure centre so he could satisfy himself on the measures in place and understand why GLL is currently unable to open all its facilities.

“Several constituents have raised the issue of the hydrotherapy pool at St Austell not being open, but James has explained that, given its size, only one person and their carer can currently use it at a time,” he said. “Given the running costs involved, I understand that simply isn’t sustainable.

“My message to the community is please support your leisure centres as much as you can. They are doing everything necessary to keep people safe and the old adage of use it or lose it definitely applies.”Councillor Mike Eathorne-Gibbons said: “Leisure centre providers across the country are facing significant financial shortfalls as a result of the lockdown and ongoing impact of Covid-19.  “As with more than two thirds of Council leisure services in England, there has been no government funding for leisure services in Cornwall. “We have been working hard with GLL to find a solution. Together with local authorities across the South West we have been lobbying government to urgently provide a rescue funding package to safeguard the future of leisure centres.  “GLL and Cornwall Council remain committed to re-opening more leisure facilities across Cornwall as soon as possible and we will continue to do all that we can to make that happen. “We want to thank everyone in Cornwall who has gone back to using their leisure centres and we hope that more people will take up their services again and support our important community facilities.”

For more information on the facilities available, visit the website.