The leisure management company dropped by Lewisham Council in the wake of Covid-19 has said it is “really proud” of what it has achieved. 

Lewisham cut ties with Fusion Lifestyle after nine years following “significant financial challenges” caused by the pandemic.  

The borough’s leisure facilities have been managed on behalf of the council by two contractors, 1Life for the Downham Health and Leisure Centre – which will not be affected – and Fusion Lifestyle for the rest. 

Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL), which operates under the brand ‘Better’, will now be managing the Lewisham leisure facilities previously run by Fusion.  

The decision to award the contract to GLL, which is also facing financial difficulties, was made under urgency procedures on August 12 behind closed doors. The details came to light on Monday (August 24).   

Commenting on the move, Anthony Cawley, director of operations at Fusion Lifestyle, said the company had “made a really positive difference to residents”, though this is disputed by some and the service has been criticised in the past.  

Mr Cawley said: “We are really proud of what we have achieved in Lewisham since we started our contract in 2011.   

“We know how important leisure facilities are for the health and wellbeing of the local community and we believe that the initiatives we have undertaken in Lewisham have made a really positive difference to residents in the area.” 

The local democracy service asked about the future of Fusion’s staff – Mr Cawley said they are “aware of the situation and are liaising with them over next steps.’’ 

Fusion had previously told staff they were at risk of redundancy.  

The borough’s leisure centres are expected to undergo a phased reopening this autumn. 

Councillor Andre Bourne, cabinet member for culture, jobs and skills, said Fusion is “looking to concentrate on other areas of their business”.   

“Lewisham Council continues to work towards the safe reopening of leisure centres, subject to the new Covid-19 restrictions.   

“As leisure centres and swimming pools were forced to close during the height of the pandemic, the entire sector has faced significant financial challenges for operators as five months of closure brought an abrupt stop to income whilst staff and maintenance costs continue.  

“The council has decided to take the opportunity to secure a new partner, which will see the phased reopening of leisure centres and swimming pools starting this autumn.   

“The council’s current leisure partner, Fusion, is looking to concentrate on other areas of [its] business in light of the impact of coronavirus on [its] operating model.   

“The council is working with GLL, a not-for-profit social enterprise and one of the UK’s leading operators of leisure centres who currently manage 100 public facilities across London under the ‘Better’ brand.   

“It is anticipated the transfer of centres will be completed shortly.   

“An immediate assessment of leisure centres will then be undertaken and we expect to provide an update in mid-September on the phased reopening from this autumn.  

“The pandemic has significantly affected behaviours and attitude to sport and leisure and it is important that we seek involvement from all of those who use our leisure facilities.   

“In the coming weeks we will be in touch with users to take on board their views as we consider our reopening plans,” he said.