Brockwell Lido’s management leaves historic site ‘unsafe’ and in decline

Brockwell lido users have declared facilities “unsafe”, “filthy” and “growing mould” pointing blame at management body Fusion for the deterioration of the London site.

Users have voiced concerns about dirty changing rooms, broken toilets and damaged gym equipment at the swimming spot in the wealthy Herne Hill borough.

Meanwhile, the registered charity which runs over 70 leisure sites, has consistently funded senior staff salaries of over £60,000, while spend on facilities management has diminished over the past few years.

Brockwell Lido User Group (BLU), a committee which holds Fusion to account, said the leisure operator has left the site in disrepair for more than two years and declared Fusion’s inaction “deliberate” driven by a “financial motive”.

Chair and spokesman of the group Ben Longman, said: “The site is not run in the way that it should be. It’s not resourced in the way that it should be. It doesn’t have the investment going into it that it should be.”

The site, which has been open since 1937, has up to 2,000 visitors daily in peak season and charges £8 per person for lido and gym access.

Fusion said they “continually reinvest in facilities, products and importantly people” on their website and in response to allegations said they have “put plans in place” to rectify the issues.

The complaints

The hydropool has been out of action for a year and filled with stagnant water
Credit: Simon Gasworthy

The most serious complaints have claimed “health and safety issues” at the lido site, which contains an outdoor swimming pool, indoor gym and spa.

The 20-year-old user group, which has 8 members, shared a user complaint on X: “The particular concern here is the stagnant water which has been left in the spa for months…

“The whole room stinks and it is not only extremely unpleasant but also unsafe to leave the spa in this condition… I am disappointed if you and your team think leaving the spa in this state is acceptable for your paying members.”

Mould growing on the bottom of the facility – a health and safety issue according to users
Credit: Simon Gasworthy

The spa consists of a sauna, steam room and hydro pool. Regular spa user Mike Warde, 42, said the latter two have been out of service for the majority of the year.

He said: “There are loads of health and safety issues. For example, in the sauna, the emergency button has been missing for a long time. To me, it’s crazy. The spa pool is basically half drained and growing mould.”

Richy, a former member of Brockwell lido for 10 years, said he quit his membership because of the spa conditions.

He said: “The chairs in the sauna, the loungers and underneath them are caked with dark areas. It’s really filthy, and then in the plunge pool as well you can just see the buildup of grime on the bottom.”

The site is open everyday except for New Years and users can access the site whenever they choose with a £340 annual pass.

In the women’s pool-side changing rooms it has been claimed that there is one working toilet, one working shower and both in “filthy” conditions.

One user wrote on X: “My pool (@Brockwell_Lido) is trying very hard to make me break up with it. Half the pool closed (and so lanes too full), only one working loo for women, filthy showers.”

Another complaint on Twitter regarding the female facilities

The deterioration has also been claimed to be in the gym as equipment, lockers and showers are alleged to be broken with many users also complaining about the long repair times.

47-year-old Simon Gasworthy, an electrician and Lambeth resident, said: “There used to be three rowing machines. One broke about 10 months ago, and around four to six months ago it was removed and has never returned.” 

Out of order notices on a rowing machine, cross-trainer and weights machine at Brockwell Lido gym
Credit: Simon Gasworthy
There used to be three rowing machines and now only two
Credit: Simon Gasworthy

Richy, 43 and lives in Camberwell, added: “All the lockers are either broken or pulled open. Some of them don’t work at all. Some of the doors are just broken open on them.”

Gasworthy, who started using the lido facilities after a hip replacement in 2022, added: “At times people just take a chance and leave their belongings in unlocked lockers.”

Users can complain through Fusion’s feedback portal or via the BLU website, with Fusion promising to “call within 48 hours” as part of their policy.

Warde, a lido member since 2017, has been tracking the complaints and said issues reported in January 2022 have still not been fixed.

He said: “There should be a formal system for reporting faults and having them fixed with guaranteed lead times.”

When Fusion does not reply to their online pleas, many users confront employees in person, but with little success.

Many lockers do not have doors, with further complaints that the locks themselves do not work
Credit: Simon Gasworthy

Richy, a food importer from Ireland, said: “I feel sorry for some of the staff on the ground who we approached because you voiced your concerns to them and they agree with you, but then it goes no further than that. They’re only talking to the management and the management doesn’t do anything.”

Fusion’s management structure includes several front of house staff, a general manager of the site and a senior business manager who overlooks the operation of multiple facilities. 

In the past year there have been four new site managers and one new business manager. There were also several periods without either manager at all.

Warde, who has lived in Brixton for 10 years, blames the high staff turnover for the lido’s persisting problems. He said: “I think it’s just a general malaise. It’s like this constant reset where someone new will come in, say they’re gonna make everything better. Then they get disgruntled, end up leaving, then you’re back to square one again.”

Unable to hold Fusion to account

Brockwell Lido users have said the process of holding Fusion accountable “has fallen apart” due to a lenient contract and breakdown of communication.

Registered charity Fusion signed a contract with Lambeth council in 2003 to take over the day-to-day management of the site under a 25-year lease.

As part of the legal agreement, Fusion must submit an annual plan setting out improvements for the lido site in the year ahead. However, this was not submitted in 2023.

Longlan said: “That process of accountability to stakeholders … that should have Fusion reporting and responding on certain things has fallen apart and effectively it has exposed the community’s inability to hold Fusion to account.”

The Community Services Delivery Plan, must include a “summary of customer feedback and Fusion’s actions to be taken in response to customer feedback”.

Under the contract, Fusion is also required to have ongoing and extensive communication with the Brockwell Lido Steering Group (BLSG), a committee of lido representatives, created to bring customer feedback to the forefront of Fusion’s attention.

However, in the annual meeting between BLSG, BLU and Fusion in November 2022, a service delivery plan was not submitted for 2023 due to disagreement between BLSG and Fusion. 

Stephen Trowell, BLSG chair wrote in his report: “I reported last year that we did not approve the Service Delivery Plan that had been submitted to Lambeth [by Fusion] because we had no financial information.”

The plan should be presented to the council by November 1, approved by January 15 and put into practise from April 1.

However, the contract allows leeway. If deadlines are not met, Fusion is allowed to operate under the previous year’s plan meaning new improvements do not need to be implemented. 

Gasworthy said: “ Every industry has a [regulatory] body and they don’t seem to. There doesn’t seem to be a standard for them to stick to”.

In the same meeting, meant to address customer complaints, the BLSG noted the operator’s nonchalance in response to questions about the lidos conditions. 

Scarlett Hayward, the site manager at the time, was recorded  to have “acknowledged awareness of the issue” in response to inquiries about broken gym equipment and lack of hygiene at the lido.

Longlan said: “We realised that the fundamental issue is not that they don’t know what issues are, but that they don’t accept that the issues exist in the same way that we do, and that the remedies need to be applied.”

He added: “There’s something going on within fusion that is stopping them doing the fixes. And that’s an internal issue within fusion, that is mysterious to us because we’re not in Fusion.”

The 2023 AGM took place last month and lido users took to X to applaud the large turnout.

The financial motive

The BLU have called the lido’s degradation “deliberate” and pointed to a “financial motive” from Fusion, ruling out incompetence as a reason for the continued failings of the operator.

The allegations come as Fusion increased its number of highly paid staff from 2020 to 2021 despite having a negative net worth and a multi-million-pound covid loan to pay off last month.

On behalf of the BLU, Longman said: “We think Fusion knows how to run a site. We think that the decisions that they are making, that are allowing the site to be run in the way that it is today, we think are deliberate decisions.”

Since the pandemic, Fusion’s income almost halved, as it made £86,429 in 2019 but only £43,922 in 2021, due to site closures during covid lockdowns, according to their Companies House records

To cover the costs of the charity, Fusion spent more than they could afford and took out a £9,685,000 loan from the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption scheme in 2020, sending the charity into debt. 

While costs to cover facility maintenance at their sites took a hit, staff costs remained high.

The proportion of Fusion’s expenditure to cover maintenance fell by 8.9 percentage points from 25.1% in 2019 to 16.2% in 2020. However, Fusion has continually spent almost half of their outgoings on staff. 

Despite their financial difficulties, they increased the number of staff with salaries of over £60,000 from 11 to 16 in 2021. The number of staff paid the same salary pre-pandemic was 17.

Such decisions have left the charity’s finances in a state, as it has a net liability of -£4,003,000 in 2021 – down from net assets of £14 million in 2019.

Longman added: “I think we can sense that there is a financial motive for doing some of what happens. At the end of the day, if [Fusion] wants to fix toilets, showers, broken gym equipment, these are not mysterious things to fix for a leisure operator.” 

Fusion’s financial future is also uncertain as the accounts for 2022 have still not been published. 

Fusion’s accounting period runs from January 1 to December 31, with accounts due to be filed by September 31 the following year.

On September 21 2023, 10 days before the 2022 accounts were due, Fusion shortened its accounting period by one day, meaning accounts from 2022 are not due until December 2023. 

Fusion has also extended its accounting period for 2023, from December 30 2023 to March 31 2024, meaning next year’s accounts will not be filed until 

December 2025 leaving creditors in the dark about Fusion’s financial future.

In response to the allegations a Fusion spokesperson said: “We acknowledge there have been a number of issues in relation to Brockwell Lido. We have put plans in place to rectify these and continue to increase spending year on year on cleaning and maintenance, as we look to ensure we keep an ageing asset in the best possible condition for all users and protect it for future.

“Recently, we held a meeting with Lido users to get direct feedback from members of the local community. We already have a rigorous schedule in place for corrective maintenance and are hiring additional cleaning staff for the centre on a full-time basis. We are also adjusting swim times, classes and processes for 2024 whilst adding more community-based provision, on top of our significantly discounted concessionary access.

“We recognise that Brockwell Lido is a huge community asset and Fusion Lifestyle remains committed to delivering a service that everyone can be proud of.”

Lambeth council has been contacted for comment.

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