Investigation: Emails reveal leisure centre closures and redundancies were released to media – without Sheffield Council knowing

Sheffield’s biggest leisure facilities were mothballed and staff put on risk of redundancy – but council chiefs had no idea the media was being informed.

Wednesday, 21st July 2021, 10:26 am

Sheffield City Trust was bailed out by the council in October 2019 with an emergency £1m, an annual subsidy of £2.8m and another £3m towards health and safety costs and maintenance at facilities.

In July 2020, Sheffield International Venues issued a press statement but the council was taken by surprise.

The Trust’s chief executive Andrew Snelling said concerts, shows and large events would not be possible in the short and medium term.

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Email released as part of an FOI.

His media statement said: “This leaves us with a decision to make regarding how we sustain venues such as Sheffield Arena and Sheffield City Hall.

“There are also specific issues with some of our sporting facilities, which means it may not be viable to open them safely even after we receive the go ahead.

“We have written to employees who are affected by the venues they work at being unable to open and explained we have begun a consultation process which may lead to redundancies.

“It is not a decision that has been taken lightly but venues that are generating no income will only need a much-reduced workforce to carry out essential maintenance while they are mothballed awaiting a change in circumstances.”

A Freedom of Information request has discovered council chiefs were not happy at being left in the dark.

In an email, officer Lisa Firth says to senior councillors and directors: “SCT/SIV has issued a press statement. We were unaware this was being issued.

“(Redacted) made us aware on Thursday evening that they would start to consult on redundancies this week and that work was being undertaken as part of their business plan to consider whether partial/full mothballing of City Hall and Arena might happen.

“However (redacted) did not tell me or anyone at Sheffield Council that this press statement was being released (it has also gone on social media).

“We are preparing a response to this and hopefully can reassure people who are asking that this is not permanent closure.

“I’m sorry this has happened – I’m talking to (reacted) to ensure this will not happen again.”