Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Bosses insist Highland venues will survive lockdown despite projected ‘£6m losses’

Steve Walsh, has been appointed as High Life Highland's new chief executive
Steve Walsh, has been appointed as High Life Highland's new chief executive

The organisation responsible for leisure centres, libraries and museums across the Highlands has vowed to keep venues open after lockdown, despite fears it could lose as much as £6 million.

High Life Highland (HLH), which runs the facilities as an arms length organisation for the council, is projected to suffer major losses as people are unable to visit the many buildings.

Highland economist, Tony Mackay, said HLH showed a loss of £3.4m in its latest financial accounts and estimated that a black hole of £6m from lockdown “could be realistic”.

He speculated that the situation could result in the local authority cutting HLH’s budget, leading to the closure of “many” facilities and widespread job losses.

But the body’s chief executive, Steve Walsh, said every measure was being taken to secure its future.

He said: “Thanks to our strong relationship with Highland Council, and its guaranteed support, in conjunction with our successful application to the government’s coronavirus job retention scheme, and confirmation of ongoing backing from Sport Scotland, this means HLH doesn’t have an immediate cashflow issue.”

And Mr Walsh thanked monthly subscribers for donating to the charity during the pandemic.

He added: “This will support the ongoing work as HLH moves towards reopening our sites currently closed in line with social distancing guidance.”

Council leader Margaret Davidson predicted that HLH could face an “extremely difficult” future.

She said: “There’s a huge loss of income for HLH because all their facilities have had to be closed, and reopening will be very difficult because of social distancing.

“As we go forward, all of our structures may change.

“We’ll have to take things a step at a time, see where we’re going to be in three months, six months time, as we come out of lockdown see what might be possible.”

Councillor Tom Heggie, vice-chairman of the education committee and an HLH director, said the body’s contribution to the health and wellbeing of the Highlands would be needed more than ever once normality begins to resume.

He praised the work of HLH in his own constituency of Nairn, saying the charity had been used as a model by neighbouring Moray Council.

Mr Heggie said: “Mitigation for its current losses will be at a high cost and depends on how long lockdown lasts.

“The £6m sum could be a worst case scenario.”

Another HLH director, councillor Linda Munro, added: “I know many people are beside themselves with worry over elderly parents, children with compromised immune systems, job losses and mounting debts, uncertainty is not something we cope well with.

“Against this backdrop High Life Highland facing a shortfall of £6m will not be a priority for most people, and that’s perfectly understandable.

“However, HLH is a major employer in Highland, an economic driver and a committed partner to Highland Council.

“The sustainability of HLH matters greatly to Highland Council, our communities and partners for it delivers many of the services we need and value. This dark time will pass.”

Meanwhile, Highland Council set out its plans to use technology to take its committee meetings online after prompting controversy by staging limited gatherings behind closed doors.

The council has faced accusations of secrecy and lack of transparency after its meetings were cancelled and decisions made privately.

Yesterday, chiefs announced a special meeting of the council would take place on June 25 using technology to allow remote participation.

The meeting will consider a report detailing the urgent measures taken and powers exercised in response to coronavirus but the focus will be on the council’s recovery.

The authority is also reviewing its emergency procedures for making planning-related decisions and says it wants to hold meetings of its north and south committees “as quickly as circumstances will allow”, likely in a virtual meeting.

The regular planning review body will go ahead by video conference on Tuesday.

Councillor Andrew Jarvie chairs the licensing committee said he expects to have technology in place for its next meeting in June.

Already a subscriber? Sign in

[[title]]

[[text]]