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Leisure centres to go under without further rescue funding in Spending Review – districts warn

Published: 21 November 2020

Leisure centres to go under without further rescue funding in Spending Review – districts warn

21st November 2020

Leisure centres closed again due to coronavirus may never re-open unless government brings forward a financial rescue package to save the sector in next week’s Spending Review, new analysis reveals today.

The District Councils’ Network, which represents authorities responsible for providing leisure services, forecasts a financial hit to outsourced district council leisure centres of around £324 million this year – which will send many out of business.

The Government is to provide £100 million of help sometime early next year.

Councils are concerned that the continued loss of income will cause many leisure providers to go bust without more help getting to them more quickly.

Many councils have sought to help prop up their leisure services. However it is unsustainable as councils’ own income from sales, fees and charges has plummeted by £470 million since March, with further losses across business rates and council tax.

The DCN, the voice of 187 district councils in England, is calling for an increase in emergency funding as part of the wider package of support for district councils when the Chancellor announces his Spending Review on Wednesday to ensure the leisure sector can survive into the future.

It says leisure centres have a fundamental role to play in the national recovery from the pandemic, by improving physical and mental health and tackling health inequalities.

Sport and leisure will be critical to improving the health of people of all ages and from all backgrounds and keeping people out of overstretched and expensive NHS and social care services.

Investing in leisure centres will also deliver greater returns in the long term, with the King’s Fund finding that district council leisure services and green spaces create up to £23 in value for every £1 invested.

Cllr Dan Humphreys, DCN lead member for enhancing quality of life, said:

“After a further period of lockdown and being unable to visit their local gym or swimming pool, it would be a devastating blow to communities to find they no longer have their local leisure centre in the months ahead.

“But the sad reality is that our leisure centres are in a crisis right now, and some may never recover without an increase in the lifeline as part of a wider package of support for district council services from the Government’s Spending Review.

“As local leaders, district councils are committed to tackling this health and economic crisis now and in the future.

“Leisure and sport will be critical to improving the health of people from all ages and backgrounds as we emerge from this crisis. As destinations in themselves, they also draw people into town centres creating community spaces and support for local businesses.

“District councils are central to protecting health and the economy and helping to drive jobs and growth moving forward.

“But our incomes have plummeted amid the crisis and it is critical that the Spending Review continues to ensure we can deliver those critical doorstep services, protect the vulnerable and drive growth in the coming months and years.”

Notes to editors

Altogether for all English councils this represent a loss of £650 million for outsourced leisure centres.

The analysis used for this press release follows a survey that was sent to 187 District Council Chief Executives, 92 responses to the survey were received, 49% of DCN member authorities.

The District Councils’ Network (DCN) is a cross-party member led network providing a single voice to 187 district councils. District councils in England deliver 86 out of 137 essential local government services to over 22 million people – 40 per cent of the population – and cover 68 per cent of the country by area. They play a key role in local communities, providing services such as building homes, collecting waste, regenerating town centres, preventing homelessness, keeping streets clean and maintaining parks.

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