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Sport and leisure face ‘extraordinary financial crisis’

Public swimming pools are under particular threat from the energy crisis (Credit: Pixabay/Pexels)

A number of leading sports and leisure organisations have written a joint letter to the government, asking for it to act swiftly in support of public sport and leisure services, amid an “extraordinary financial crisis”.

The letter outlines how, since 2019, leisure providers have seen their energy bills increase by 300 per cent – leading to a huge number of public facilities facing closure.

It singles out the decision to exclude the sector from receiving extra help under the energy bill initiative as particularly worrying.

The letter is signed by organisations whose members are responsible for the country’s public sport and leisure infrastructure – such as the Local Government Association (LGA), District Councils Network, Chief Cultural and Leisure Officers Association (CLOA) and the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE).

The letter states: “Public sport and leisure infrastructure is facing an extraordinary financial crisis due to the ongoing impacts from COVID-19, the cost of living and the energy crisis.

“In light of these pressures, we have significant concerns about the decision to exclude swimming pools and leisure centres from the list of sectors eligible for extra support under the Energy and Trade Intensive Industries scheme and the Energy Bills Discount Scheme.

“This is not a call for a hand-out. Councils and their partners have been working together to transform facilities into assets fit to meet the challenges of the future, whether co-locating with GP surgeries to create wellness hubs, retrofitting with solar panels and heat pumps, or energy-efficient newbuilds that boost participation and cost less to run.

“Many Levelling Up Fund bids from councils are aimed at continuing this transformation and Government has chosen to invest in many of these bids.

“But if council-run and commissioned facilities, including Trusts and Community Interest Companies (CiCs), close because of unaffordable running costs, these transformations will not happen and a core plank of the levelling up approach will fail.”

The organisations urge the Government to “act swiftly” with three key measures:

• Reclassify pools and leisure centres as energy intensive in the Energy Bills Discount Scheme so they can access the higher level of energy price discount.

• Set out what tangible support it will provide to the wider sector – including gyms and sports facilities – to help navigate the energy crisis across 2023 so that service restrictions and facility closures can be minimised.

• Set out a “plan for the growth” for the sector by aligning the proposed new Sports Strategy with the Spring Budget to unlock the potential of the sector to support the economic, health, and social wellbeing of the nation.

To read the letter in full, click here.

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