As of today, a 90-day transition period has been triggered, during which Vivacity will work with the council, honouring all outstanding commitments while decisions are taken on future delivery models.
The charity's culture, leisure and heritage facilities closed on March 20 as a result of the national lockdown, with 98% of its employees placed on furlough. The closure of all of the sites has seen as estimated £8million loss of annual income - and with the leisure/fitness sector predicting it could take up to 18 months to recover, the charity has made the decision to hand services back to the council.
Sites affected include the city's 10 libraries, the Key Theatre, Peterborough museum, the Lido, Flag Fen, the Regional Pool, and the health and leisure facilities at Bretton, Dogsthorpe, Hampton, Netherton, Orton and Werrington.
Stewart Francis, chair of Vivacity trustees, said: “This has been an extremely difficult and painful decision to make. We are devastated.
“Vivacity has been caught in a perfect financial storm. Covid-19 has switched off our revenues for 13 weeks already. There would be significant costs of re-opening and we are predicting a major loss of income as we implement social distancing and reduce capacities. This immediate shock comes alongside the well-publicised budget pressures of the council that have resulted in continued reductions in its contributions to Vivacity.
“Regrettably, given this combination of financial pressures, the trustees cannot see a viable future that allows Vivacity to continue to deliver its charitable objectives to promote health and well-being and arts and culture in the city. We have concluded that the only option for Peterborough and for the charity’s employees is to give notice to terminate the contract with the council as of 18 June 2020.
“The trustees recognise how vital culture and leisure services are to the people of Peterborough. This decision has been made with enormous regret and only after we have made exhaustive efforts to find a way forward that could have guaranteed a sustainable future for the charity and the services it provides. We are proud of what Vivacity has achieved over the last 10 years and of the immense efforts of our people, including our hundreds of passionate volunteers.
“We will now work closely with the council to support our employees as far as possible. I am acutely aware of how difficult this situation will be for them. It is their efforts and the fantastic support of our 116,000 customers that has enabled Vivacity to help put Peterborough on the cultural map and make such a difference to the lives of those who live here.”
Peterborough City Council leader, Cllr John Holdich, said: “We are sad that our 10-year relationship with Vivacity is to end, just one more casualty of the global pandemic. But we are committed to continuing and even building upon the excellent services it has provided for the city, and are excited by the opportunity to possibly even change and develop what that offer might look like for a new, post Covid world.”
The council has stated that it has already begun a review of the services to determine how they might be delivered in the future – either by the council alone, or in partnership with others.
The priority is working with Vivacity to make sure that services are able to open their doors as soon as possible after lockdown restrictions are eased, as well as supporting the 500-strong workforce employed by the charity.