ACTIVE Tameside insisted it was not showing signs of greater money troubles, even though it spent more than £2 million it had brought in.
The charity has announced it will close three facilities – Active Ashton, Active Etherow and Adventure Longdendale – in September because of rising costs.
But when contacted by The Correspondent after a community hub it was running in Stalybridge was repossessed, it was adamant it was not a sign of bigger issues.
When asked, it replied: “No.
“It’s simply a case of maximising resources for the local area and pooling these resources rather than duplication, which I’m sure in the present climate make both business sense and social responsibility even more sense.”
However, documents lodged with the Charity Commission spelled out what Active Tameside was facing ahead of the decision, which has sparked anger among thousands of people who will be affected by closures.
In its annual return for the year ending March 2022, lodged in November and its last available set of figures – after we asked the question – it disclosed spending just over £14.1 million on charitable activities while bringing in almost £11.79 million – up from £9,762,973 the previous year.
Paperwork told how the ‘management fee’ given by Tameside Council, which owns the facilities, was being reduced to £777,000 from £927,000.
And Active warned: “The Trust continues to receive funding from Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council by way of a management charge.
“Any further reduction in the future level of funding could impact the services provided by the Trust.”
It added, however: “The major risks to which the charity is exposed, as identified by the directors, have been reviewed and systems have been established to mitigate those risks.”
It also detailed the loans it has received from the authority since 2009, totalling just over £7 million and according to their statement, a total of more than £3.6 million is still owed.
And in its directors’ and strategic report, Active Tameside stated: “The financial year 2021/22 can be characterised by two key dynamics.
“The recovery of commercial revenue streams to pre-pandemic levels and the impact of inflation on the two biggest cost lines, staffing and utilities.
“It is also the case that levels of disposable income which are intrinsically linked to commercial revenues were coming under real pressure towards the end of the year.
“By the end of March however, overall monthly direct debit revenue emanating from the three key trading revenue streams had exceeded pre-pandemic levels —a feat almost without parallel across the trust sector.”
Despite that, the concerns were clear as it warned: “The ‘top line’ commercial recovery was invisible on the ‘bottom line’ as a consequence of inflationary pressures generally but in two areas particularly.
“More than half of the Active Tameside work force is on the National Minimum/Living wage which means that the increase of circa six per cent in April resulted in a disproportionately challenging quantum.
“It’s also the case that year by year, a bigger and bigger proportion of the workforce is dragged into Minimum/Living wage status as ‘mainstream’ inflationary awards fail to keep pace —next year’s award is circa 10 per cent.
“There can be no doubt that this scenario represents a growing risk to the business in terms of recruitment, retention and productivity
“Similarly, the expiry of our utilities contract in September resulted in a new two-year contract which encapsulated a year on year increase of £583, 126, which meant that utilities equated to 11.4 per cent of turnover from 7.6 per cent the previous year.
“Should utility prices remain at current levels, this will mean a further increase of £503,230 equating to 14.5 per cent.”
Cuts had already been earmarked with the statement: “Efficiency savings and new potential income streams have been identified and are currently being pursued by the management team.”
And the Covid-19 pandemic appeared to have been ridden with the claim: “At the date of signing the financial statements, in the opinion of the directors, Covid-19 will not impact on the trust’s ability to trade as a going concern.
“After making enquiries and considering the issues, the directors have a reasonable expectation that the Trust has adequate resources to continue in operational existence for the foreseeable future.”
Active Tameside also talked about ‘looking to invest heavily in new gym equipment and refurbishing a number of existing gym facilities with a view to protecting its key revenue streams by offering outstanding value for money,’ – if it’s contract is extended by two years until 2026.
The Correspondent has contacted Active Tameside for clarification on its suggestion the hub’s repossession was not a sign of larger financial issues.