Bosses of Gloucester's GL1 leisure centre given 'outrageous' pay rise months before closing site

The GL1 leisure centre in Gloucester. Credit: Google.

Bosses of a leisure centre in Gloucester were given a pay rise just months before the site was forced to close unexpectedly due to financial difficulties.

It's been revealed that staff who ran the GL1 centre were given a ten percent uplift in pay - at a time when the Aspire Leisure and Cultural Trust, which ran the site, was £500,000 in debt.

It led to the trust suddenly closing the leisure centre on 26 September.

Bosses had agreed verbally with the council to extend their 15-year contract with Gloucester City Council for another year, when it expired at the end of last month.

This was to provide the council time to sort a long-term contract for the city’s leisure services.

But financial difficulties meant they decided not to extend their contract and entered liquidation.

In an extraordinary meeting of the council at North Warehouse on Thursday 19 October, Aspire representatives explained their position.

Chairman of trustees Robin Bown said they had no adequate going concern statement, meaning they could not have their accounts audited.

They also had no pension bond, so were liable for any ongoing pension and had accrued a debt of £500,000 from 2021 which made it difficult to trade.

But, figures show that the trust gave all staff a ten percent pay rise due to the cost of living crisis in 2022/23, spending £1.6m on staff and budgeting £2m for this current financial year.

Councillors questioned why the CEO and senior management were also given a pay rise at a time when the trust was clearly struggling financially.

'It's absolutely irresponsible to be awarding pay rises when they're in financial trouble'

The city council had been forced to provide £1.5m in extra financial support to the trust since 2019 and had agreed to provide them with an extra £260,000 which council chiefs said was what they had asked for to extend the contract another year.

Cllr Sajid Patel said it was 'outrageous' for the trust's bosses to be giving themselves pay increases when they were requiring additional financial support.

He said: “It’s absolutely irresponsible and outrageous for the board to be awarding the CEO and other senior management ten percent pay rises when they are in financial trouble.

“On the one hand, they’re in financial difficulties and on the other they are giving themselves pay rises.”

The charity said it has faced increasing financial pressures in recent years due to the coronavirus pandemic, the rapid rise in utility costs and inflation.

The council has used funding intended to support Aspire to reopen some of the GL1's pitches, courts and the swimming pool to sports clubs, but the site remains largely shut to members of the public.

Credit: Local Democracy Reporting Service