Charity and social enterprise Wave Leisure Trust will receive a £500,000 loan from Lewes District Council to help restart its gym, swimming and exercise classes for locals, to help alleviate the financial challenges brought about by the Covid-19 crisis and secure its future. Meanwhile, prime minister Boris Johnson has said that he wants to back renewables and transform the UK into the “Saudi Arabia” of wind power.
Like other sector operators, Wave had to close its centres between March 20 and July 25 under lockdown rules, which had a significant impact on income.
Lewes District Council cabinet members agreed to provide the support at a meeting on Thursday this week, amid news that Wave, one of the council’s long-term partners, faced a deficit of roughly £1.5 million as a result of the lockdown and having to now operate under various government restrictions.
It comes as a major boost to Wave, which was ineligible for various support programmes provided by government. Its trust status barred it from the Business Interruption Loan initiative, while its high value premises, such as the leisure centres, rendered it ineligible for business support grants.
Unlike Wave’s other local authority partners, Lewes District Council does not provide the trust with a service fee for its leisure facilities.
The Argus reports that Wave presented the council with a three-year financial model which projected a move from a £1.5 million deficit to a £130,000 surplus by the end of the year 2022/23, assuming that the trust can bring in around half its previous membership income during 2021/22 with social distancing measures still in place.
Zoe Nicholson, a Lewes District Council cabinet member for finance, commented: "It is of vital importance that residents across the Lewes district are able to access leisure facilities within a safe environment for the benefit of their physical and mental wellbeing, especially during this challenging time.
"Wave is not alone among the country's leisure operators in facing financial hardship but its difficulties are compounded because the government has failed to fulfil its promises and provide support to leisure services like Wave all over the country.
"We have had a long and successful relationship with Wave, which is an award-winning provider as a charitable trust, and we cannot let it fail because the government can't fulfil its responsibilities."
As part of a three-phase plan to reopen sites, Wave will remove entrance turnstiles and install screens at its reception points, as well as erecting hand sanitiser stations and implementing one-way systems within its premises.
Its future provision will focus on its gym, swimming and booking-only group exercise classes.
Elsewhere, prime minister Boris Johnson has told the United Nations that the UK has “extraordinary potential” for wind energy and wants to turn the UK into the “Saudi Arabia” of wind power.
The PM was speaking on a UN roundtable discussion via video link, saying that the UK will look to new technologies to help coast toward its net-zero carbon emissions goal by 2050.
The UK currently presides over the COP, the UN climate conference. Its annual gathering this year has been pushed back to November 2021 as a result of the ongoing pandemic.
During the discussion, the PM urged other countries to match the UK’s climate ambitions, telling world leaders not to be "caught napping" on climate change as they were by the virus outbreak. He went onto praise China’s aim to become carbon neutral by the year 2060.
Johnson said: “We’ve got huge, huge gusts of wind going around the north of our country - Scotland. Quite extraordinary potential we have for wind” as he repeated his pledge to “build back greener” during the economic recovery from coronavirus.
He added that the UK will seek to take a leading role in developing carbon capture and storage technology, which he said that he was “now a complete evangelist” for.
Johnson also said that the government will invest in renewable hydrogen fuel technology which will go toward powering “trucks”, “trains, even perhaps planes” and “vehicles that aren’t readily capable of being moved by electric batteries”.
The prime minister said during the call that ministers would also consider bringing forward the phasing out of petrol and diesel cars, which the BBC reports is expected to be 2030, but is yet to be confirmed.
The government will also continue investing in solar and nuclear power, the PM added.
Johnson also promised home improvements across the UK to ensure houses emit less greenhouse gasses.
He said: “Putting in lagging, changing the way the windows are configured, all kinds of things - changing the boilers. You can do so much to make a home less carbon-emitting.”
The impact of Covid-19 has seen the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions drop by eight to ten per cent compared to previous years.