Bail out of Wales National Swimming Pool set to be met by taxpayers

TAXPAYERS look set to bail out the Wales National Swimming Pool after months of plummeting revenue.

The Swansea pool is run by Swansea Council and Swansea University, which subsidise it equally.

The two parties had planned to contribute £272,000 each in subsidies between August 1, 2020, and July 31, 2021.

But that could rise to £910,000 each, according to a report before the council’s cabinet on November 19.

Although the council has secured some Government funding to claw back costs, cabinet members are being asked to pump in an extra £350,000 to cover an eight-month period.

A further contribution is likely in the future to cover the remaining four months, although some more costs might also be recuperated.

The report said: “WNPS (Wales National Swimming pool) has national status, so should Welsh Government and Sport Wales not be supportive of hardship fund claims, the council could consider further lobbying to make a case as to why a local authority and university are left underwriting the cost of a national facility in truly unprecedented times.”

The 50-metre pool closed in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. Staff who were furloughed had their wages topped up from 80% to 100% by the council and university.

Elswhere, costs were reduced where possible and a small grant was provided by Sport Wales.

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But this was never going to be enough to make up for lost income.

The Sketty pool began opening in phases on August 10, but demand has not returned to normal. It also lost a big chunk of half-term income during the fire-break lockdown.

The council and the university are contractually bound to underwrite the annual deficit of the pool until December 2023.

The leisure attraction generated £884,579 in revenue between August 1, 2019, and July 31, 2020. This was £412,474 less than expected because of the impact of Covid.

Leisure trusts and not-for-profit organisations like the Wales National Swimming Pool have been unable to access much of central Government’s coronavirus support packages, according to the Welsh Local Government Association.

In the summer, Swansea Council chiefs injected extra money into the trusts which run the LC and Plantasia on the authority’s behalf.

The cabinet said a local authority faced a tricky choice when leisure trusts’ financial viability was threatened.

“It can either allow the operator to become insolvent, potentially bringing any facilities owned by the council back in-house as a means of keeping them open, or it can choose to support the operator,” said the report.

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