The council’s Cabinet approved plans, at its meeting of Tuesday 24 May, to provide a one-off grant of up to £2.5m to LiveWire.
This is in response to the significant financial challenges LiveWire has faced in recently, due to the impact of Covid-19 and the unprecedented increase in energy costs
A not-for-profit Community Interest Company, LiveWire manages leisure and library services on behalf of the council. It operates four multi-service neighbourhood hubs, two community leisure centres and nine community libraries across Warrington as well as delivering a health and wellbeing service known as Lifestyles and a number of free community outreach programmes.
The Covid-19 pandemic saw LiveWire’s leisure and library sites closed for extended periods of time, severely impacting on the vital commercial income generated through avenues such as leisure memberships.
During lockdowns, new ways of delivering services were introduced - such as the ‘At Home’ membership platform. However, despite these efforts, LiveWire saw a loss of around £10.3m of customer income between March 2020 and March 2022.
These challenges have been exacerbated by the cost of living crisis and the huge increase in energy prices, which have seen LiveWire’s estimated annual energy bill increase by more than £2m.
The proposed grant from the council will help protect the important services LiveWire provides in Warrington’s communities.
Warrington Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for leisure and community, Cllr Tony Higgins, said: “LiveWire plays an important role in our communities, providing a range of leisure, health and wellbeing, educational and community services which connect with many thousands of people across the borough.
“We recognise the significant financial challenges that LiveWire – like many other leisure, arts and hospitality organisations across the country – is facing, due to the impact of Covid and the current cost of living crisis and soaring energy prices.
“This grant is part of our ongoing commitment to safeguard the long-term future of our leisure and libraries services, which we know play such a valuable role in our communities.
“It’s in keeping with our overall approach to invest in our leisure and libraries offer. In recent years, this has seen us undertake a comprehensive modernisation programme at libraries across the borough, along with the delivery of two state-of-the-art community hubs in Great Sankey and Bewsey & Dallam and developing proposals for improvements at Birchwood and Broomfields leisure centres.”
LiveWire’s Managing Director, Emma Hutchinson said: “The increase in costs around utilities, staffing, and other operating costs associated with the rise in inflation is presenting a huge threat to many businesses on a national level, particularly Leisure Trusts. Without additional funding, this will undoubtedly lead to changes in the operating models for leisure trusts which brings about concerns of increasing inequalities for local people.
“Not for profit, Community Interest Companies such as LiveWire have played a vital role in supporting the mental and physical health of local people, post-pandemic. This additional financial support from Warrington Borough Council will enable LiveWire to continue to support the people of Warrington, as the need is greater now, more than ever.”