THE decision to give £9,000 to Gillingham’s RiversMeet has been deferred by councillors, with members fearing that without this financial support the leisure centre “is going to die”.

During the Gillingham Town Council meeting on Monday night, it was heard that the centre in Hardings Lane had asked the authority for £22,290, to help cover the payment of utility bills during the Covid-19 pandemic.

It was instead recommended that the council grants £9,000 to the leisure centre to support its reopening and recovery, after four months of closure.

Councillor Mike Gould described RiversMeet as an “incredibly valuable asset to the town”, adding it is “the only charity-run leisure centre in the country”.

Instead of the recommended sum, Cllr Gould suggested offering RiversMeet £14,000 on top of the proposed £9,000, backed by Cllr Alan Frith.

He also suggested nominating councillors to work more closely with the site.

“The challenge this leisure centre has, is that without support it is going to die. We have a decision to make as to whether we’re going to support it or not,” Cllr Gould added.

Cllr Sharon Cullingford suggested deferring the vote so a workshop could be organised to discuss questions and costs.

Backed by nine fellow councillors she said: “I would like to discuss this further because there is a lot to go through, a lot of questions, and I would like the opportunity to discuss this with my fellow councillors before we take a vote.”

While highlighting support for the centre, Cllrs John Kilcourse and Val Pothecary were “disappointed” that the leisure centre had not acknowledged previous grants and contributions offered by the council.

Describing the site as “important to the town” Cllr Pothecary said she was “pretty upset” with the lack of recognition from RiversMeet, adding she could not cast a vote on the recommended figure without more information.

Cllr Gould said: “Nobody knows the future, particularly now, and it does concern me that if this leisure centre was to fold it will not be replaced and that building would become a white elephant, because it is owned by the community and nothing else can happen to it.

"We live in very strained and difficult times and I am particularly concerned about the health of the community, this is one aspect where we can provide that support.”

Ten councillors supported the motion to defer the decision, and a workshop will now take place to discuss the sum and financial implications.