How Covid hit Bournemouth Gardens

The impacts of COVID have hit the finances of Bournemouth Lower Central Gardens Trust – but this year is set to return to ‘business as normal’.

A full program is planned for the coming year with the aviary due to officially reopen in May.

The big screen will return for the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations in early June and will remain in place for Wimbledon.

Figures due to be presented to the Gardens Board this week/next week (April 29) show that six-figure council grants are needed each year to maintain the solvency of Bournemouth‘s Lower Central Garden Trust.

Accounts before the Trust show that up to March 2020 the BCP grant was £452,400 and up to March 2021 was £381,300, although running costs were lower due to Covid. The amount of the grant until March 2022 is expected to be £397,600, although accounts have yet to be finalised.

The account’s brief summary shows the garden suffered a sharp drop in income, of over £440,000, from commercial operations and income from recreational activities during the period when the Covid restrictions were at their peak – shown in the accounts until the end of March 2021.

Since then, income from commercial business activities has rebounded to £565,600, of which £230,700 came from leisure activities, giving total income of £796,400, higher than in the year ending March 2020 which ended amounted to £778,200.

Maintenance of the pavilion remains one of the largest expenditures, beyond the cost of running business and charity work, and amounted to £129,600 for the year ending March 2020, £129,000 in March 21 and £94,300 for the year ending March 22.

Gareth Norris, Audit Director of Grant Thornton confirmed that the current account audit process went well and there were no significant findings.

The Board is legally required to approve the Lower Center Gardens’ annual financial statements and submit them to the Charitable Commission each year.

A board meeting this week (April 29) is being asked to further expand CCTV coverage of the area, immediately behind the Bandstand on the Pinewalk and to offer a one-year extension to the Westover Bandstand.

Board members will be told that additional emptying of bins began on Friday, Saturday and Sunday to cope with increased demand, with police urged to monitor anti-social behavior which has led to an increase in broken glass in the gardens on weekends.

Activities in the gardens are expected to return to pre-pandemic levels this year with the return of the Big Screen event, Arts by the Sea from October 1-3 with a mix of art installations and live performances, then events in the gardens later in the month for Run Bournemouth.

A report says the aviary contractors have now completed their work and the site is being prepared for the “imminent” return of the birds. An official reopening is scheduled for March 17 at 10 a.m.

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