40% of UK councils risk losing leisure facilities over rising costs

Image of a ladder to enter a swimming pool.

Image of a ladder to enter a swimming pool. Credit: Wavemedia / Shutterstock.com

More than forty per cent of the UK’s councils are at risk of losing their leisure facilities and in particular their swimming pools.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said on Friday, November 4 that a report by UK Active released the day before was of grave concern for local communities.

Bemoaning the lack of support from central government amid rising prices, the LGA said that councils were having to rationalise their services with many becoming unaffordable.

That could see services that are deemed luxuries taking a hit with leisure centres falling into that category when compared to other services provided by councils. Heated pools and indoor facilities are typically expensive to run and are used by a small sector of the population.

Many of these facilities were also contracted out to private companies that are no longer viable and will soon go out of business leaving the council to deal with the issue.

According to the UK Active report 40 per cent of the councils say they will have closed some leisure facilities whilst 75 per cent that the level of services will have reduced significantly by March 2023.

The sector is calling for similar support to that being provided to homes or lose the facilities with leisure centres disproportionately hit by energy costs.

Huw Edwards, ukactive CEO, said: “We are now seeing daily announcements of public sector leisure facilities either restricting services, at threat of closure, or closing permanently due to the energy crisis.

“This is the sad reality of the accurate projections ukactive made to the Government earlier this year, and a tragedy for local communities which are losing trusted, essential services that support the physical and mental wellbeing of the communities they serve.

“The Energy Price Guarantee – in place until March 2023 – has avoided catastrophic energy prices across all sectors for the moment, but it was never a silver bullet, and this is now being seen in parts of our sector, especially in facilities that run swimming pools.

“The Government needs to intervene now, and we remain committed to bringing together operator members, alongside representatives across local government, to explore all options available to stem the flow of closures.

Jane Nickerson, Swim England chief executive, said: “Pools and leisure centres are vital parts of the community, improving the health and wellbeing of people of all ages.

“They help reduce pressure on the NHS and social care system, saving more than £350m pounds a year – as well as being a place where people of all ages can learn a skill that could one day save their life. However, they are particularly vulnerable to the rising energy prices as we are seeing now with increased closures and service reductions.

“Our fear is that more than 100 pools are under threat in the next six months. That would be a devastating blow for the millions who rely on being active in the water for their physical and mental health. Without additional support, the situation will only deteriorate further which would be an absolute tragedy.”

With 40 per cent of UK councils at risk losing leisure facilities, private providers should see some benefit however they are facing the same cost pressures and could also find themselves in a similar situation.

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Written by

Peter McLaren-Kennedy

Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at editorial@euroweeklynews.com.