In a report being presented to The Highland Council’s Recovery Board on 24th August, Steve Walsh, High Life Highland’s Chief Executive, has outlined the charity’s road to financial recovery thanks to its bounceback campaign.
Mr Walsh explained, “It now seems like an over-used phrase, but when the pandemic hit in March it was clear that High Life Highland, along with every other organisation was facing unprecedented challenges.
“I am pleased to be able to inform The Highland Council that our financial position continues to stabilise and improve, and we are now moving our main effort from mitigating the in-year impact of the pandemic, to strategic business planning to re-build as we look to the future.
“Our priority throughout has been to protect jobs and services. Given the importance of physical and mental health and wellbeing as we recover from the pandemic, HLH services have never been more important to Highland communities.
In March, our projected loss of income indicated a year-end deficit in the region of £11.4 million. However, I am pleased to report that through extensive mitigation measures we have managed this figure down to a reasonable worst-case scenario of £1.55 million. We will continue to pull out all the stops to improve this position.
The Chief Executive went on to explain how the gap had been bridged, “First of all, I would recognise and thank the many highlife members that continued to pay, either in full or in part, their monthly subscriptions to the charity. We will always be grateful for the contribution our members made to our bounceback and supporting us through the most challenging time since HLH was incorporated”.
“As a charity, we also welcomed the UK Government’s announcement of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and we moved immediately to access the fund to further mitigate our projected losses. Our ability to access the CJRS has enabled the charity to protect many, many jobs while at the same time maintaining the services we offer to communities across every corner of the Highlands for the future”.
“With obvious reductions and savings in other expenditure during the lockdown period, where our locations and services have not been in operation, we are projecting a financial mitigation of around 25% of the Charity’s overall turnover of £30.8 million”.
Steve Walsh continued, “High Life Highland’s report to the Council’s Recovery Board also focusses on the strong partnership working that has taken place between both organisations during the pandemic to help and support those most in need in communities across the Highlands”.
“The HLH services that support the most vulnerable in our communities; youth work, adult learning and music tuition, along with support for the local authority’s community hubs has continued throughout the pandemic. This has only been possible through close collaboration and partnership working with colleagues in The Highland Council and other partners”.
“We have been gradually re-opening our facilities to our customers and feedback has been fantastic. However, re-opening our leisure centres and swimming pools is crucially important to our financial security. We are ready to open our leisure facilities as soon as we get the go-ahead, the current date of 14 September represents a full six-months since we closed the doors”.
“We are really looking forward to playing our part and helping the people of the Highlands get fit and healthy”.
Concluding, Mr Walsh said, “Given the financial picture we were previously looking at, HLH is pleased to be able to present a substantially improved financial position to the members of the Highland Council’s Recovery Board. We look forward to welcoming our amazing customers and brilliant staff back to our facilities as we continue the Charity’s own bounceback.”