Online fitness fans are helping the Angus Alive leisure trust make early steps on the road to recovery.
But the boss of the arms’ length council leisure and culture organisation has warned the situation surrounding the body remains “stark” as the complete shutdown of facilities continues.
The glimmer of hope has been delivered by take-up of a recently-launched Angus Alive app, which has seen upwards of 100 people sign on for virtual fitness classes.
Released in February, the app is streaming free live and on-demand fitness classes.
It has been offered free for a trail period which will run until at least the end of this month.
Angus Alive chief executive Kirsty Hunter told a full meeting of Angus Council the average attendance at more than 30 fitness sessions streamed on the app so far had been 45 people.
“That includes nine cycling classes where you have to have a fixed bike at home and the highest attendance was 110 at one of our group exercise classes,” she said.
“We are looking innovatively at how we can use the app, not just in leisure but also across culture, museums and into our libraries.”
But Ms Hunter warned: “The situation remains stark.
“The vast majority of the team are furloughed and partially furloughed.”
Angus Alive secured more than £2million of support, including furlough payments, to the end of last year.
There had been a brief return of services following the relaxation of restrictions in the autumn.
But the shutdown which came into place on Boxing Day has meant the body is unable to meet the operational services specification drawn up with the council.
Angus Alive receives a £3.9m management fee from the council, but that represents only around 45% of overall operating costs.
The remainder comes from customer income – 88% from the leisure area of the business – which has effectively been wiped out since the March lockdown.
It was on course to hit a 17% savings target by 2023 before Covid-19 plunged it into financial crisis.
Councillors have now agreed an interim change to the deal which will reflect the situation brought on by the pandemic.
Going concern status maintained
Strategic policy director Vivien Smith said: “Although there is no issue with Angus Alive moving forward on a going concern basis and trading legally at this time, the position is being very closely monitored by the board as it remains under pressure.”
She said a council support package is still expected to be needed to keep the charity running.
The level of support will be part of the council budget which is due to be set next month.
The official added: “The financial measures in the support package alone, however, will not be sufficient and there is a continued need to transform the business to be sustainable over the longer term.”
Angus is in talks with other councils over future plans for their ALEOs, amidst fears raised earlier in the coronavirus crisis that a significant number might not survive.
Recent financial papers laid bare the struggle for neighbouring Perth and Kinross Council’s two leisure and culture ALEOs, which fear combined losses of more than £1m.