40 staff to be cut across Greenwich leisure centres

Just one day after Greenwich Council launched a consultation on building a new Woolwich leisure centre comes news that library and leisure centre  operator Greenwich Leisure Limited – who trade as Better – are looking to cut up to 40 staff.

New leisure centre plans

A council report before Greenwich Council’s Cabinet next week shows two options on the table. Both see 40 job losses. One requires a loan of £1.17 million from Greenwich Council with much of the business staying as it is except for job losses. The other is a loan for £955,000 which would see the same number of job losses and Adventure Play possibly removed. Coldharbour indoor activities would be shut with opening hours at Thamesmead reduced. Prices would be “streamlined”.

Crossing point outside Waterfront

The newly proposed loan will only fund services until March 2021. Since lockdown “gym memberships have fallen by 26% from 14,000 to 10,048. Just over 1,000 memberships are still frozen”. They state “customer surveys highlight the fact that they remain frozen due to concerns around Covid.” Falls are no doubt exacerbated by covid, yet in previous years there were already double digit declines in memberships.

Greenwich Centre on left

In January this year I covered membership reductions. Woolwich had seen membership numbers fall by 20 per cent from 5,000 to 4,000 in 2019. The Greenwich Centre fell eight per cent  in 2019 which followed a nine per cent fall the previous year.

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Low cost gyms have hit the group. It also doesn’t help that pedestrian access is poor at leisure centres such as the Greenwich Centre from thousands of new homes being built at Greenwich Peninsula. This should be a goldmine of potential custom, but is all but ignored.

The authority had another chance to rectify issues with custom when approving 6,000 last month. They almost entirely ignored the chance to improve pedestrian links from new homes to the Greenwich Centre in east Greenwich via a Section 106 agreement between the developer and authority.

Street layout between new homes and Greenwich Centre

They did find £16 million for their job and training agency GLLaB in that deal. Perhaps if they invested slightly more income towards creating safer and better links from new homes to local town centres and amenities they’d be less job cuts at struggling centres? Remember, issues long predate the pandemic. At a time when centres are struggling, to do pretty much nothing to assist from nearby large developments is baffling.

New homes at GMV. A short walk to the Greenwich Centre – but few will bother

Woolwich is not as bad but still not ideal. Take a walk from Powis Street down Hare Street past some decrepit old buildings. Just last month one of them – crumbling away and with bushes growing out the roof – had a fire on the upper floor.

Woolwich High Street

Then there’s the ugly dual carriageway area to cross. Did the authority use millions incoming from nearby blocks at Callis Yard and the Royal Arsenal site to improve the area? I don’t need to tell you.

Incident in February 2020

It didn’t help Woolwich when a large piece of piping fell from the roof into the main pool necessitating a long period of closure from February 2020.


Greenwich Council gave a loan of £812k to support GLL in spring. It was spent before the end of August.  GLL were awarded a contract for 15 years from 2012. It was then extended from 2027 to 2031. That extension enabled “lower management fees and improved surplus share to RBG over the period”, which is a problem if there is no surplus.

The problems at centres have certainly sped up this year but underlying issues have long been there – and often gone unaddressed.

There are some promotional activities presented in the report including:

  • 1000 free swimming vouchers distributed to families whose children
    receive free school meals.
  • 2000 individuals targeted for Free open weekends at all centres – free
    activities includes fitness swim, family swims, fitness classes, gym and soft
  • 2000 individuals targeted for a reduction in monthly membership fees.
  • 2000 reduced concessionary membership by £10 per month from January to March 2021.
  • Home membership offer pilot in Greenwich, including live streaming of
    exercise classes.
  • 1000 individuals targeted with ‘Give It a Go’ membership for inactive
Failure to act

Council reports have shown problems for years which I’ve reported for some time. See this post from 2017 when membership fell 10 per cent.

Unfortunately many hard working staff who give excellent service will now lose their jobs rather than those who took minimal measures to entice more people into centres.

The report states “GLL have agreed that the business model must change, as does the offer available in the short and medium term”. Surely that should have been attempted back in 2016 when issues were evident?

Greenwich Centre

Unless the council themselves start to look at how you can persuade people in the wider area to visit centres they will continue declining post-pandemic. They have much to offer – great libraries and pools – that low cost gyms do not. Play to those strengths. Invest in better walking links to them. It’s a holistic challenge and one that requires Planning and other departments to invest in better access. As long as councillors and the council leadership have their head in the sands – a question on access and why S106 funds was not allocated in the latest agreement  was ignored by council leader Danny Thorpe this week – little will change in the mid to long term.

By the time a new Woolwich Centre opens in 2024, how many existing centres will remain open as they are now?

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Many thanks

J Smith

I've lived in south east London most of my life growing up in Greenwich borough and working in the area for many years. The site has contributors on occasion and we cover many different topics. Living and working in the area offers an insight into what is happening locally.

5 thoughts on “40 staff to be cut across Greenwich leisure centres

  • A desire to keep traffic moving quickly around the Peninsula trumps local residents. I can only assume they don’t want liveable streets as it will impact upon Silvertown traffic levels in future – thus as residents we already are second best and the damn thing isn’t even built yet.

    Gotta keep fast flowing high speed traffic among schools and homes for future higher traffic levels.

  • are libraries still relevant in 2020?
    All one needs is an internet connection, and this is far from expensive these days.

    • Yes, libraries is still relevant. Especially for children

    • It’s obvious that either you don’t use the libraries, or if you do you don’t pay attention. The are places that hold more than just books, you can still rent DVDs at low prices and there groups for the community is which arguably one of the most important features. The includes reading and singing to small children, events for the elderly, lessons on how to use computers and so on.

      Yes, we have the internet, but you forget that to get access to a text book you still have to buy it or subscribe to a service. A library is still to this day a place where so much information is readily available at no extra cost – immediately. Joining a library and borrowing a book is free. And then there is study spaces. What if you share a room? What if your home is loud or overcrowded? What if you simply need to be in a different environment to study? Libraries today still maintain a certain acceptable volume for the sake of others.

  • Maybe if libraries were called libraries an internet learning centerns, it would change the perception of a place to borrow books or read in silence. With leisure centers my wife usens Thamesmead for some classes,it seemss to be busy monst times, also the pool is used a lot with early swimmers and schools. With all the waterways and lakes around Thamesmead iit is most important that children are taught to swim in case they fall in them. I URGE EVERYONE TO EMAIL ALL 3 YOUR LOCAL COUNCILLORS TO VOICE YOUR OPPOSITION TO THE CUTS. AS DANNY THORPE MAY TAKE NOTE IF HE THINKS HE COULD LOSE VOTES, ON THE OTHER HAND I DON’T THINK HE WILL


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