Published: Thursday, 23rd March 2023
Sevenoaks District Council has set out the road map to reopen Edenbridge and Sevenoaks Leisure Centres and Lullingstone Park Golf Course at pace after their operator, Sencio Community Leisure, ceased
At a specially convened meeting of the Council’s Cabinet this evening (Thursday 23 March 2023), it was recommended that the Council begin the process of appointing a new interim leisure provider to run the facilities for up to two years.
The Cabinet recommended that the Council earmark up to £2 million of funding towards the maintenance, safety and running costs of Edenbridge and Sevenoaks Leisure Centres and Lullingstone Park Golf Course under an interim leisure operator.
The Cabinet’s recommendations will now be debated at a special meeting of the Council on 4 April 2023.
Alongside this, the Council is working with Sencio and its insolvency practitioner to regain possession of the centres. A major concern for the Council is the condition its buildings have been left in by Sencio, including essential monitoring, health and safety and security.
However, with the continued help and co-operation of all parties, the Council believes the centres could reopen with a new operator in a matter of weeks.
Sarah Robson, the Council’s Chief Officer for People and Places, says: “We are one-hundred percent committed to reopening the leisure facilities as soon as possible and with the Cabinet recommending funding and the process for appointing a new leisure provider, we have made significant progress.”
For the latest news on the reopening of the leisure facilities, visit www.sevenoaks.gov.uk/leisure.
Sencio, an independent leisure trust, leased Edenbridge and Sevenoaks Leisure Centres and Lullingstone Park Golf Course from the Council.
Under this arrangement, the Council’s influence over Sencio was limited to the lease of the facilities and certain funding arrangements. This extended to an annual investment of nearly £250,000 each year for a management fee, subsidy for concessionary memberships and asset maintenance.
However in recent years, Sencio received nearly £1.4 million of public money, of which £411,000 came from the Council following a direct request for help in 2021.
The additional £411,000 was to help Sencio through the pandemic and to support its long-term business recovery. As part of the funding arrangement, Sencio agreed to overhaul its financial and business model, setting it on course to achieve a budget surplus from 2022 onwards.
Despite its senior managers giving the Council and its Board of Trustees assurances in late 2022 and again in January 2023 that the trust was performing well, Sencio accumulated further debts in recent months. This resulted in significant cash flow problems, even with the financial support from the Council and the efforts of two nominated Councillors on its Board.
When the financial situation was reported to Sencio’s Board of Trustees, they made the urgent decision to cease trading from 17 March 2023.
- More articles in the news archive
- Sevenoaks District Council news RSS feed